Missouri Republicans this month touched off the latest push for a so-called “right-to-work” law, introducing legislation similar to the union-busting laws signed by Republican governors in Indiana and Michigan last year. The right-to-work proposal, which prohibits unions from requiring workers to join, is just one of multiple bills targeting unions that are making their way through the GOP-controlled state legislature. Others would end Missouri’s prevailing wage law and prohibit unions from using dues for political purposes unless workers gave them permission to.
Right-to-work, the most pernicious of the proposals, faces an uphill battle even though the GOP holds veto-proof majorities in both the state House and state Senate. Still, Republicans have been emboldened by successful right-to-work efforts in Michigan and Indiana, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
“I’ve seen a momentum building around the country, and I don’t think it’s an issue that Missourians or our Legislature can simply ignore or avoid,” said House Speaker Tim Jones, Republican from Eureka who has signed on as a co-sponsor of right-to-work legislation here. “It may be a multiyear process because this is the first time — in a long time — these issues have been debated with this much attention.”
The state senate will not prioritize passage of right-to-work, according to Majority Leader Ron Richard (R), because a similar proposal failed last year. But Republicans in both Indiana and Michigan said they would not prioritize right-to-work before passing it shortly after.
Instead, Richard said the Senate would focus on legislation that repeals the state’s prevailing wage law, which guarantees workers a livable wage, and another proposal that would keep unions from using dues for political purposes.
ProgressMissouri found that the various right-to-work proposals closely mirror legislation produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a business front-group that was abandoned by dozens of companies last year over its support for controversial voter suppression laws and other conservative proposals. In 2011, Missouri Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation that was nearly identical to legislation introduced in other states.
Proponents argue that right-to-work laws spur job and economic growth, though there is little evidence backing up those claims. Such laws have, however, been linked to lower wages and less access to health and retirement benefits for workers, both union and non-union alike. Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a right-to-work proposal in 1978.