The “right to work” issue is heating up in the state Legislature this year with bills that would prohibit certain employers from requiring workers to join unions or pay fees to labor organizations.
A House bill seeks to have a public vote on whether Missouri should become a right to work state.
State Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said he would support a right to work bill, saying he does not think anyone should be forced to join a labor union to be employed.
State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said he cannot support a right to work bill in the form the legislation is currently written. He said it is unfair to unions because they would still be required under federal law to represent workers who were not part of the union.
Hinson said he would be more inclined to support a right to work bill if it contained an amendment that said if non-union members received representation then they would be required to pay back dues or attorney fees.
Schatz said he can’t argue with the growth neighboring right to work states have seen. If all other factors are equal, a company may choose a right to work state over one that is forced unionization, Schatz added.
But Mike Louis, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said Schatz’s statement is “hogwash.”
Major companies have invested in Missouri recently including Ford’s new plant in Kansas City and General Motors’ new facility in Wentzville, Louis said. Those companies were not deterred by the right to work issue, Louis added.
“It’s a shame” that some legislators find it more important to push the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council and “greedy corporations” instead of trying to create jobs and make Missouri a better place to work and live for all workers, Louis asserted.
Schatz said he is not anti-union, but he believes it should be the individual worker’s choice whether to join.
Louis said workers already have choice under federal law. If there is a union security clause in their contract, workers can still opt out of being a member of the union, but they still must pay fees for union representation in grievances and negotiations, Louis said.
One right to work bill is called the Freedom to Work Act, and it says no one as a condition of employment should be required to become a member of a union or pay dues to a labor organization.
It would not apply to employees and employers covered by the federal Railway Labor Act or federal employers. It would also not apply to agreements entered into before the effective date of the bill, but it would apply to renewals of those existing agreements.
If Missouri became a right to work state, labor unions should not be required to protect those workers who choose not to join the union, Schatz said. If someone is not a member, then they should not be allowed to enjoy the benefits, he added.
If it was put on the ballot, he expects national labor organizations would mount a heavy campaign and spend lots of money in Missouri to defeat the effort.
The only chance to make Missouri a right to work state would be through a vote of the people, Hinson said. Simply trying to pass a bill in the Legislature would fail because Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, would veto it, he said.
And Hinson said he does not think there would be enough Republican votes to override a veto, because some Republican legislators represent heavy union areas.
Hinson noted that in his district alone there are 2,200 current or former union households.
State Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, did not return three phone calls from The Missourian seeking comment on the issue.
State Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, also did not return three phone calls.