Missouri Republicans Open New Legislative Session By Renewing Push For Anti-Labor Laws


The Missouri State Capitol

Not even 24 hours into the new legislative year, Republicans in Missouri are vowing to renew their push for harmful anti-worker legislation in 2014.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones has been leading the charge on so-called “right-to-work” legislation in recent years, and on Wednesday promised to fully support efforts to pass the bill again this year. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has promised to veto the bill should it pass.

For years, the state party has tried — and failed — to pass a “right-to-work” law similar to the ones on the books in other Republican-controlled states like Michigan and Indiana. A handful of Republicans uneasy with the anti-labor implications of the legislation have joined Nixon in resisting previous attempts to pass a bill.

Nixon and other opponents of the measure have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Right to Work laws. In states where similar laws have been implemented, workers have lost an average of $1,500 in annual wages, as well as access to heath care and retirement benefits and safety regulations.

Still, business interests haven’t been shy at pushing boilerplate legislation onto the dockets in several states, including Missouri. Conservative pro-business group ALEC circulated draft legislation that was then adopted by Republicans in Missouri and other states.

But after last year’s attempt at a bill was again stalled, conservative activists and a handful of Republican lawmakers voiced their support for a different tactic: referring the bill onto the November ballot and waging a public campaign to convince voters to pass the law for them. Jones’ counterpart in the state senate, President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R), was hesitant to lend his full-throated endorsement to the idea as the new legislative session began.

“It’s been a difficult issue for me,” he told local paper The News-Leader. “I believe that in the area of manufacturing, it hurts the state of Missouri to not be a Right to Work state…That being said, I have very hardworking friends who are in unions, who are very productive. So it’s not been a fight I have been enthusiastic to take on.”