Missouri legislators vote to lower workers’ wages

Missouri House Gallery
PACKED GALLERIES of workers from around the state watched as the Missouri House of Representatives passed the first ever right-to-work bill by a vote of 91-64 – still not enough to override an potential veto by Gov. Jay Nixon veto. The House bill now goes to the Senate. – Associated Press photo by Orlin Wagner

RTW moves to the Senate



Jefferson City – Buoyed by an overwhelming Republican majority, the Missouri House, for the first time ever, approved a right-to-work bill Feb. 12 that curbs union rights.

The state’s Workforce Standards and Development Committee also took up two paycheck deception measures, also sponsored by Republicans.

The right-to-work measure combines House Bills HB116 and HB569 and would apply to all unions. But the 91-64 vote was far short of the 109 needed to withstand a potential veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

The measure is moving to the Missouri Senate, where it faces a possible Democratic filibuster.


Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, was unsparing in his response.

“The Missouri House again put the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda of millionaires and billionaires ahead of the needs of Missourians,” Louis said. “Extremists pushed the bills through initial approval despite strong bipartisan opposition.”

Louis said the state federation was grateful to the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus, Democratic legislators and the many Republican legislators who reached across the aisle stood up to special interests and against right-to-work.

Twenty-three House Republicans and one Independent joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

State Rep. Keith English (I-Florissant), said the measure would primarily benefit low-paying, non-union retailers like Walmart because workers would have fewer options.

“In right-to-work states, the average worker makes $5,538 (less) per year,” English told St. Louis Public Radio. “Right now we have a Wal-Mart being built in the city of Florissant…. wouldn’t they love to build more Walmarts so they can close down union shops like Schnucks and Dierbergs and other businesses, and use labor that would make $5,538 dollars less?”

No Democrats voted for the measure. One, state Rep. Penny Hubbard (D-St. Louis), was absent. Rep. Courtney Curtis (D-Berkeley), voted “present.”


A similar bill last session narrowly failed to win enough House votes to move to the Senate.

Following last November’s Republican landslide, legislators this year wasted no time rushing the legislation through committee and onto the House floor for a vote.


Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council said that might be why it passed.

The AFL-CIO and working family supporters worked the hallways of the State Capitol last session educating legislators about right-to-work and what it would mean for Missouri’s working families. As a result, many Republican legislators crossed party lines to vote against the measure.

Many freshman legislators were considering the measure for the first time, and had little if any information about its true impact.

“There’s a lot of freshman legislators,” Aboussie said. “And in doing the bill so quickly, we really haven’t had a chance to do a lot of education. I think if we get to do some in the future, they may realize that they voted the wrong way on a bill that hurts a lot of middle class people.”


Mark Esters, president of the St. Louis Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, said CBTU was firmly opposed to the legislation.

“Members of CBTU have been making the trip from St. Louis to Jefferson City to testify against these dangerous bills,” Esters said. “Right-to-work laws are deceptive and will hurt Missourians from all walks of life.”


Sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), the bill would bar unions and employers from requiring all workers to join a union, and pay union fees, if a majority votes to organize.

By its very name, right-to-work is designed to be misleading.

Right-to-work laws have nothing to do with the right of a person to seek and accept gainful employment. Business interests, conservative groups and their political beneficiaries use right-to-work to refer to an option under federal labor law that allows workers employed by a unionized employer in states where right-to-work laws exist to receive the full benefits of a labor contract without paying for any of the cost to gain those benefits. The result is that unions are slowly bled dry by representing workers who don’t pay for their services.

Supporters say right-to-work is about choice and “worker freedom.”

In law and in fact, no employee anywhere in the country has to join a union and no employer has to sign a labor agreement.

Right-to-work laws simply make it easier for businesses to pay their workers less and increase their profits.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce was among the business groups lobbying hard for the bill.

Unions, faith leaders and other groups that support workers and working families have sought to defeat it.


House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), a member of IBEW Local 1 and secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, called the bill an example of government interference with how private businesses choose to operate – something his Republican colleagues in the House claim to oppose.

“Imposing an unwanted and unnecessary government mandate on Missouri businesses is the antithesis of conservatism,” Hummel said. “Missouri companies like Ford, General Motors, Boeing and Anheuser-Busch are strong and successful in large part due to the mutually beneficial relationships they enjoy with their labor unions. Government shouldn’t interfere with how these companies choose to conduct business.”


Legislators need to hear from working Missourians who will be affected by this wrong-headed measure.

Call 1-855-626-6011 and you’ll be patched through to your legislator.

Tell them you oppose right-to-work.


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