By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS — Missouri may try to pass right-to-work legislation in 2013, but moving the bill through the General Assembly looks to be an uphill climb.
Right-to-work bans requirements that workers pay union dues as a condition of employment in certain sectors. The Missouri Legislature in the past two years has considered such legislation, but the movement has gotten little traction.
Greg Mourad, the legislative director for the National Right to Work Committee, said — based on recent conversations with pro right-to-work groups and lawmakers in Missouri — he’s optimistic the state will take up the issue again when the Legislature reconvenes next month.
“There’s a possibility we could see an aggressive push in the state next year,” he told Missouri Watchdog.
A push is one thing. Passing a bill is another.
Gov. Jay Nixon has been unwavering in his stance to veto such a measure if it bypasses a vote of the people. The Democratic governor has received plenty of support from unions, including in his re-election bid this year.
Even though the GOP has supermajorities in the state House and Senate — allowing Republicans to override any Nixon veto if they toe the party line — House Speaker Tim Jones doesn’t think right-to-work would pass.
He said for the controversial measure to pass would require the support of the governor and business community. Opponents cite studies that show states with forced unions tend to have higher wages than right-to-work states, and call employees’ dues the price of union bargaining.
“I think we’re going to require first what Michigan has, and that’s a strong, conservative, Republican governor who is willing to lead on that issue,” said Jones, R-Eureka. “Without a governor who is willing to lead on that strong of a pro-growth issue, taking on a very entrenched status quo, the Legislature is not going to be able to fight that battle all on its own.”
The Michigan Legislature passed two right-to-work bills Tuesday, one focused on government employees and another dealing with private-sector workers. That state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, signed the bills into law, making Michigan the 24th state with right-to-work statues.
Previous champions of right-to-work legislation in Missouri are leaving office next month.
Former Senate Pro Tem Rob Mayer, who prioritized right-to-work in the Senate the past two years, just completed his second term and was elected as Circuit 35 Judge this November. The staff in his office told Watchdog on Wednesday that Mayer is no longer fielding Senate-related media calls.
Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, sponsored what she called the “employee’s right to choose” bill in the Senate last year, but she’ll no longer be a lawmaker in a few weeks, either. She reached the end of her term limit and was recently elected to the Clay County Commission.
Jones said he expects the Legislature to tackle one issue that would curb some union power — a measure that would prevent unions from using employee dues for political purposes without their consent.
No one answered the phone Wednesday at the Jefferson City office of the Missouri AFL-CIO, one of the biggest opponents of right-to-work.
New Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey said a right-to-work law would likely give the state a boost in luring manufacturing jobs, but he doesn’t think enough lawmakers would support a bill.
“Governor Nixon has made his position clear, and the votes are not there to override the objections of the governor,” said Dempsey, R-St. Charles.
Still, Mourad says the issue will probably be debated next year.
“There are a number of Republicans in the past who have been reluctant to support right-to-work,” he said, “but it’s worth putting it out there to a roll-call vote.”
— Edited by John Trump at [email protected]
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