Missouri Senate Democrats ready to fight on ‘right-to-work’

Bill laid over as Dems hint at a filibuster

Missouri Senate Democrats aren’t going to let the Republican-controlled body pass “right-to-work” legislation without a fight.


Senate Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors) came to the floor ready to rumble Monday.

When Walsh, a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1 and president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council, began listing each “right-to-work” state’s own provisions on whether or not the violation of that law caused civil liability or criminal penalties, the Democrats’ debate over Senator Dan Brown’s “right-to-work” bill (SB 19) appeared ready to go into the night.

A few minutes later, Brown abruptly asked for the legislation to be laid on the informal calendar.

Senate Republicans have more than enough votes to pass the bill and the support of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

So-called “right-to-work” laws inject government into collective bargaining by prohibiting companies from negotiating labor contracts that require workers, as a condition of employment, to pay either dues or a ‘fair share fee’ for the union representation they receive.

Brown (R-Rolla) introduced SB 19 at 4:30 p.m., calling it necessary to ensure the freedom of workers and encourage corporations and businesses, especially manufacturers, to come to Missouri.


Senator Jason Holsman (D-Kansas City) offered an amendment to attach a referendum clause to the legislation which would have sent the bill to a vote of the people in Nov. 2018.

Brown said the 2016 elections, which gave Republicans in Missouri almost full control of the executive branch, had already effectively put the issue before voters.

“We just recently had an election on this issue, in which our side prevailed,” Brown said. “It was no secret on how this was presented in the election process.”

Holsman disagreed, pointing to a MO Scout poll that showed Missourians did not favor passage of a “right-to-work” bill.

“‘Right-to-work’ and labor issues were not at the center of why that election went the way it did,” Holsman said. “I believe there are other reasons why that election went the way it did.”

Holsman noted that “right-to-work” was defeated the last time it went on the ballot in 1978, adding “We believe that the polls indicate if it was put before voters today it would be defeated again.”

The amendment failed 12-21 with Republican Senators Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), Gary Romine (R-Farmington) and Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) voting with Senate Democrats.

A similar referendum amendment offered by Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton) failed to make it onto Rep. Holly Rehder’s “right-to-work” bill in the House.

Walsh offered an amendment to remove a section of the bill that gives victims of people who violate the law a chance to receive the full recovery of damages, including attorney’s fees.

The amendment was not voted on because the bill was laid over before debate concluded.

SB 19 is on the calendar again today.


With “right-to-work” almost certain to pass, Missouri Labor leaders are still fighting to give voters a chance to weigh-in on the issue with an initiative petition that would amend the state constitution to protect union negotiating rights.


Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, has filed several versions of the petition and labor leaders are weighing which one to circulate.

If approved by voters, the initiative petition would essentially reverse any “right-to-work” law passed this session by giving employers and employees the “unalienable” right to negotiate contracts that would require workers to pay fees covering the costs of union representation.

Supporters of the “right-to-work” measure announced lawsuits Monday challenging ballot proposals on the grounds that the ballot summaries approved by former Secretary of State Jason Kander were “misleading.”

The National Right to Work Foundation is funding the suits.

Louis called the lawsuits an “attempt by a dark money group” to influence state affairs

“Why is a DC-based special interest group, funded by the uber-rich, challenging the rights of hard-working Missourians to have their voices heard at the ballot box?” Louis asked.

“Missouri voters wanted to see the swamp drained, that means putting the power back with the people. This attack on the ballot language filed by an elected representative of Missouri’s working families is nothing more than an attempt by a dark money group to expand swamp into our great state.”

One Comment

  • As an IBEW member for 35 years I implore Congress not to pass this bill. It not only tries to defeat unions, but defeat a prosperous way of life and goodwill to the less fortunate. I am 3rd generation and have a son in the IBEW. I would hate to see a formidable chance this proud tradition not only our family but thousands of other families know.
    Also I am a combat veteran as so many others in our unions. I would hate to see Mr Greitens, who say he is here for us veterans and the people of Missouri, sign this bill into law without investigating what this law has done to the economy, education and workplace safety of other RTW states.


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