Two local legislators supported a controversial “right-to-work” bill last week, and one area representative did not cast a vote.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, voted in favor of the bill, and State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, did not cast a vote.
The bill would allow the state’s voters to decide whether Missouri should become a right-to-work state.
Under that status, workers would not be required to join a labor union as a condition of employment or pay dues unless federal law said otherwise.
Gov. Jay Nixon, who opposes the bill, said the vote last week did not achieve enough support for final passage.
“The Missouri Constitution requires a constitutional majority for final passage of a bill,” a statement from Nixon’s office says. “House Bill 1770 was perfected by a vote of 78-68, four votes short of the constitutional requirement for final passage.”
But House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said in a statement that the vote was “an enormous victory for working Missourians.”
Sponsoring Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said Republicans are close to mustering the necessary votes to send the bill to the Senate and called Wednesday’s vote “historic,” the Associated Press reported.
A final House vote in the bill may happen this week, Schatz said.
If the bill passes the Legislature, Nixon could not veto it since the legislation would ask voters to decide the matter.
Curtman said he voted in favor of the right-to-work bill after a survey of constituents found that most were in favor.
“By a five-point margin, it is clear that the voters of District 109 support right to work,” Curtman said in a statement. “Furthermore, the district overwhelmingly (70 percent in favor) declared that they should be the ones to ultimately decide the ‘right-to-work’ issue.”
Hinson was not in the chamber when the right-to-work bill was voted on because he was in the Senate discussing the transportation sales tax bill that the House recently passed, he said.
But Hinson said his proposed amendment to require nonmembers who want union representation to pay back dues was not in the bill, so he would not have voted for it anyway.
Schatz voted in favor of the right-to-work bill, saying he has a “fundamental belief” that people should have a right to join a union or not.
He said he opposes forced unionization and he does not think it should be a condition of employment.
The right-to-work bill gives employees the freedom to choose whether they want to be in the union or not, he said.
However, he said people who choose not to be in the union should not receive the benefits of union representation. The lobbying around the bill is intense, Schatz said, adding that there is a lot of pressure from labor organizations.
Twenty-four other states have enacted right-to-work laws, most recently Michigan and Indiana in 2012, but Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected the policy in 1978, according to the AP.
Republican supporters said the measure would help Missouri compete for jobs. They argued the state is missing out on opportunities because its neighbors, except Illinois and Kentucky, have enacted right-to-work polices, the AP reported.
Democrats said right to work would force unions to cope with “free riders,” who reap the rewards of a union contract without paying fees to support collective bargaining, according to the AP.
Under current law, unions are allowed to levy fees against workers who are not union members but who work under an agreement that allows such fees, the AP reported. The bill would prevent employees who are not union members from being fired for refusing to pay such fees.