By TIM ROWDEN
Jefferson City – Maybe they’re worried voters will defeat their anti-worker “right-to-work (for less)” legislation at the ballot box later this year.
Or maybe they just hate unions.
Whatever the reason, the Republican majority Missouri House of Representatives is soon expected to take another look at union-busting “paycheck deception” legislation, the sole purpose of which is weakening unions by encouraging members to leave their unions.
The bill, HB 1413, deceptively referred to as “paycheck protection” by its supporters, is a tactic to destroy public employee unions’ ability to fight for members’ rights by preventing dues checkoff and forcing employees to individually authorize dues payment withdrawals every year. It would also prohibit the use of dues money for any political purpose with a written OK from each union member every time a contribution is contemplated.
In addition, the bill would require unions to keep records of how they’re spending union dues for five years even though they file annual spending reports with the government.
Sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Nixa), the bill passed quickly out of the Economic Development Committee last week and was sent to the full House for consideration.
‘WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I NEED PROTECTION FROM MYSELF?’
Natashia Pickens, president of Communications Workers of America Local 6355 in St. Louis, said the bill is an insult to public sector workers who know they already can already opt out of union membership and the dues they require.
“What is it about people like me, Missouri public workers, that makes you think that I need protection from myself?” Pickens asked the committee. “What is it about people like me that makes the sponsor of this legislation believe that we don’t know what to do if we want to stop paying union dues through payroll authorization?”
Pickens said lawmakers should focus on boosting worker pay instead of trying to weaken unions. Missouri has the lowest paid public employees in the country.
Tim Kratz of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District said he testified against the measure, which he called a legislative assault on unions and workers, all three years it’s been proposed.
“I don’t know how much more we can say,” said Kratz. “This just seems to me to be another continued attack by this body on Labor, and on the people of the state of Missouri.”
Democratic committee member Doug Beck (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, questioned whether the wording of the bill would spill over to impact the operations of private sector unions.
Taylor, who is sponsoring the measure for the second year in a row, said he would work to clean up any language that had unintended consequences.
The only two organizations that spoke in favor of the measure were the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Missouri Rising, the state chapter of a national conservative think tank.
CONFLICTS WITH EXISTING LAW
Otto Fagen with the Missouri National Education Association said the bill was unnecessary and would conflict with law already on the books specifying how public sector workers can opt out of union membership.
“We think that it’s unnecessary,” said Fagen. “We think that it conflicts and is inferior to, frankly from our perspective, the existing law that’s been on the books, unchanged, passed almost unanimously and signed into law by Governor Bond in 1983,” Fagen said.
Police, fire fighters and first responders are included in this year’s bill, like they were last year’s “paycheck deception” legislation. They were left out of a version of the bill Republicans tried to pass in 2016.
Last year’s bill passed in the House but failed to clear the Senate after a substitute measure was offered on that chamber’s floor. The 2016 measure passed through the legislature, but was vetoed by then Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.
(Information from MissouriNet.)