The state House has advanced a right-to-work proposal but rejected Democrats’ attempt to have Missourians vote on it.
Right-to-work is a priority for the Republican super majorities in both chambers and of Governor Eric Greitens (R). The plan the House voted on would bar union membership or the paying of union dues from being a condition of employment. It would make violators of that prohibition guilty of a Class “C” misdemeanor and would require county prosecutors and the state Attorney General to investigate complaints of violations.
Most Republican House members say the bill would make Missouri more competitive against neighboring states, would increase wages, and argue that requiring union membership violates employees’ rights.
Democrats say right-to-work will lower wages and would be a government overreach into contracts between unions and employers.
St. Louis Democrat Doug Beck proposed an amendment that would put right-to-work before voters if it is passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Greitens.
“A bill of this magnitude which will affect every working person in Missouri – everybody who makes a paycheck like I do, union and non-union alike – deserves to go to a vote of the people,” said Beck.
Republicans like Paul Curtman (R-Union) say voters spoke on the issue when they elected a Republican governor to go with Republican supermajorities.
He said Democrats are calling for a vote on the bill now that there is a Republican governor who won’t veto it, but years ago they opposed a Republican bill that would have put the issue to voters at a time when Democratic Governor Jay Nixon would have vetoed it.
“They’re only using this amendment strictly for political exploitation of the rights of the people,” said Curtman. “When it’s convenient to special interests you let the people vote. When it’s not convenient to special interests you don’t let them vote, or you let them vote – whatever the case may be.”
Representative Clem Smith (D-Velda Village Hills) said the argument that the election of a Republican governor means the people want right-to-work doesn’t hold up.
“I didn’t hear anybody use that argument when we had a Democratic governor and he was vetoing bills,” said Smith. “Some of the same individuals were saying, ‘Oh, that’s not what the people want.’ But the people elected him, so we can’t use that logic.”
Ballwin Republican Shamed Dogan said to put the issue to voters would defeat the purpose of having elected representatives.
“If you’re going to put a referendum clause on this piece of legislation it could also be put on every piece of legislation that this body takes up,” said Dogan. “The purpose of a representative government, which we have here, is that we represent the will of our districts, the will of our people, collectively the will of the State of Missouri, and if we’re going to put referendum clauses on every piece of legislation that comes across here we might as well just get up and leave.”
Republican-led opposition carried a vote defeating Beck’s amendment, and the House then voted to advance the right-to-work bill 101-58. Another vote for the bill would send it to the state Senate.