By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – A bill that could make Missouri the 25th right-to-work state would skip the governor’s veto pen and go straight to voters.
A standing-room only crowd made up largely of union workers Wednesday listened to testimony before the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee on House Bill 77, which would prevent employees from having to pay union dues as a condition of employment at any jobs in Missouri.
The Missouri General Assembly has attempted to pass similar legislation the past two years, but Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the bills both times. This effort would skip Nixon and allow voters to decide on the matter in November.
The committee heard from Jared Rodriguez, president of the Michigan Alliance for Business Growth, who was a key player in that state’s passage of right-to-work legislation last year.
“It’s just not fair in today’s world that anyone should have a government-created monopoly that permanently supplies them with members and their revenue,” he said. “Unions should fight for their members, and the key point is … earn their support. If unions are working on behalf of their employees, employees will be happy to contribute.”
United Steelworkers spokesman Richard Craighead said he worries that a right-to-work law would create freeloaders in the work place.
“A lot of people want to pay their dues or pay for what they get. Others, as you know, if they get the opportunity, they will not pay,” he said. “That creates a situation where people on this side are mad, people on this side are mad.”
Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, expressed concerns about fairness in having new employees entering jobs under right-to-work after unions have paved the way.
“You come to this place and you want to benefit from this increase in salary and the benefits that have been negotiated for you, you don’t want to pay your fair share?” she asked.
Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, said he knows of three companies that declined to locate in his district in western Missouri because the Show Me State doesn’t have a right-to-work law.
The bill is sponsored by Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, who argues that it would make the state more economically competitive. More than a dozen other Republican lawmakers have co-sponsored the bill, including House Speaker Tim Jones, who previously said he didn’t think right-to-work would pass in Missouri.
That was before lawmakers restructured the legislation to send it to the people for a vote.
The Republican-led Michigan Legislature passed a similar law in December, which was signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. In 2011, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a law that ended nearly all collective bargaining for public-sector unions. Both measures drew thousands of pro-union protesters to the state capitols and the Wisconsin action was a major contributing factor to the 2012 recall election there.
The House committee did not vote on the bill Wednesday.