April 21, 2014

Missouri Considers Right-to-Work Law

Despite GOP legislative control, it’s been easier said than done.

Following on the heels of some of its Midwest regional neighbors, Missouri’s legislature is considering right-to-work legislation. With a heavily Republican legislature it seemed like passage would be a slam dunk. But that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

While the measure had a majority of those voting in the Missouri House – a 78-68 margin – it needed 82 votes to be passed to the Missouri Senate as a constitutional amendment to be voted on by the people in August. Nineteen Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against right-to-work, while 11 other Republicans did not vote. Because it didn’t clear that 82-vote hurdle, it will have one more chance in a second vote that must occur before the legislature closes up shop in May. Given the difficulty that the bill is encountering in a heavily Republican House, where the GOP has a 109-52 advantage, it’s doubtful the Missouri Senate will take this up in an election year.

Because it’s another example of a closed shop state trying to revert to right-to-work status – a move rejected by Missouri voters in 1978 at a time when union influence was far stronger nationally – the legislation has attracted national attention on both sides. Big Labor held a rally at the state capitol to protest the bill, while also lobbying certain Republicans who represent districts with a higher-than-average concentration of union workers to oppose the bill. On the other side, groups like Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, and FreedomWorks have blitzed legislators, trying to keep them on the side of job creation. A study by the American Legislative Exchange Council found that the 23 right-to-work states as of 2012 created jobs at over three times the rate their 27 closed-shop counterparts did between 2002 and 2012. This hits Missouri hard because six of the eight surrounding states are right-to-work states – only Illinois and Kentucky remain closed shop.

Many recalcitrant Republicans, though, have political ambitions that require them to secure at least some Democrat votes. One such GOP House member, who’s running for St. Louis County Executive, explained his non-vote plainly, saying, “I want to keep that option open with labor.” Another who voted against right-to-work lamented that “the bullying [by outside interests] is just not going to stop … this is ridiculous.”

It’s even more ridiculous that a party ostensibly based on limiting government and providing maximum economic choice can’t unite in telling Big Labor that if they want to collect dues from workers, they have to earn that trust.

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