By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – The Missouri House last week passed, by a veto-proof majority, a paycheck deception measure targeting public sector workers.
House Bill 1891, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), passed by a vote of 110-47, one more than the 109 votes needed to override a gubernatorial veto. Seven Republicans and one independent voted against it. Only one Democrat - Courtney Allen Curtis (Berkeley) - voted in favor.
See related story: How Missouri legislators voted on Paycheck deception
The legislation now moves to the Senate.
Conservative backers call the measure a step toward right-to-work.
The bill would require annual written permission from members of public employee unions before dues or other fees could be deducted from their paychecks, resulting in increased record keeping costs for unions and union employers under the guise of protecting workers by making it easier for them to stop paying union dues or agency fees. The measure would not apply to first responders.
Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said, “The sole purpose of paycheck deception legislation is to weaken unions and those who speak up for workers; to further skew the political balance of power in our state toward corporations and wealthy individuals and to silence the voices of working people.
“We are disappointed that some legislators who have supported organized labor voted for this unnecessary bill, which will further tilt the playing field to the powerful corporations while drowning out the voices of Missouri’s working people,” Louis said. “But as members of organized labor, we focus on the work ahead and will stand with members of the Legislature that support working people and our issues.”
Rep. Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis), a former special education teacher and a member of CWA Local 6355, argued against the bill on the House floor, later challenging supporters' claims that the bill gives more rights to workers.
“Since all the workers I’ve heard from oppose it adamantly, I’m guessing it probably isn’t for workers,” Montecillo said. “The workers don’t want this. I haven’t heard from a single union worker who wants this. I think it’s a clear effort to try to limit union membership.
“My obligation is to represent my constituents, and my constituents don’t want this. It’s one of these steps to get to right-to-work. It's a step to undermine workers. I believe it's rather disingenuous to get up and say we’re doing this for the workers.”
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Rep. Clem Smith (D- Velda Village Hills), a member of Machinists District 837, argued on the House floor that said the need to amend the bill exempted the unions of firefighters and police officers, proved that other unions had problems with it. “That is a red flag,” he said.
Rep. Bill Otto (D-Maryland Heights), a former air traffic controller and candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District, said the bill, which targets state employees, teachers, social workers and care providers, was a form of deception to weaken the working class.
“Our state employees are among the lowest paid in the country, so it’s not like their union is soaking the taxpayers for high wages,” Otto said. “I’ll never understand what seems to be constant attacks on our teachers. In fact, these are the folks who help shape our children’s future and those who help make our seniors comfortable in their later years. I’ll never understand the point.”