By KEVIN MADDEN
Jefferson City — A Missouri House committee Monday voted Senate Bill 19 – “right-to-work” – out to the House floor where it was expected to heard this week.
Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has said he will sign the bill into law once it reaches his desk and that could happen this week.
“It’s inevitable that a ‘right-to-work’ measure soon will become law,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis.
“Right-to-work” injects government into collective bargaining by outlawing union contracts that require all workers who benefit from union representation to pay dues or a fair share fee.
The Senate last week approved SB19, a “right-to-work” bill that contained a “grandfather clause” that protects union contracts until they expire; the House previously approved a version without the clause.
In recent years, “right-to-work” has been averted thanks to efforts by Democrats and worker-friendly Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
As a result of the November elections, Republicans have super-majorities in both legislative chambers.
Greitens, a Republican, campaigned on a promise to sign “right-to-work” into law as soon as it is presented by the Missouri Legislature.
DARK MONEY BOUGHT
CONTROL OF LEGISLATURE
Louis said in an interview that millions of dollars in dark money political contributions has bought control of the Missouri legislature.
Louis said the main villains were the rabidly anti-union political infamous Koch brothers.
“David Humphreys has bought enough House and Senate votes to get this (‘right-to-work’ law) passed,” Louis said.
Humphreys is president and CEO of TAMKO Building Products Inc., a Joplin-based company specializing in manufacturing residential and commercial roofing products, waterproofing products, composite decking and railing systems, and cements and coatings.
Louis also pointed to the infamous Koch brothers, David and Charles, the right-wing billionaire owners of Koch Industries. The brothers funded Missouri legislators’ campaigns through the Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
‘KICKED A SLEEPING DOG’
Louis said “right-to-work” goes against the wishes of Missouri voters, who solidly rejected the anti-union proposal in a statewide vote in 1978.
“And when working people in our state voted last November for change in Jefferson City, I don’t believe ‘right-to-work’ is what they had in mind,” he said. “I also don’t believe business owners wanted more government interference in their businesses.”
LET CITIZENS DECIDE
Organized Labor is considering several legal and political reactions to the “right-to-work” threat, Louis said.
One is a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot in 2018 that would permanently prohibit the kind of government interference that “right-to-work”imposes, Louis said.
Another option is a citizens’ veto referendum, also a statewide ballot issue, that would negate whatever “right-to-work” law is signed into law by Greitens.
“Humphreys has kicked a sleeping dog, which is going to wake up and bite him,” he said.
Louis predicted a strong political reaction from voters against Missouri legislators supporting “right-to-work”. Missouri is poised to become the 28th state with a “right-to-work” law.
LEADING THE FIGHT:
‘FACTS DO NOT SEEM
TO MEAN MUCH’
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh led the fight against the Senate’s “right-to-work” bill for three days last week before it was finally approved.
Efforts to soften by bill’s effects by Democrats and friendly Republicans, Senators Ryan Silvey, Gary Romine and Paul Wieland, were easily voted down.
Silvey (R-Kansas City) said “right-to-work” was wrong because it would allow “freeloaders” to enjoy the benefits of union representation — including increased pay and benefits and job protections — without paying dues necessary to keep a union functioning.
Under federal law, unions are obligated to represent all members — both dues-payers and “freeloaders” alike.
On the Senate floor, Walsh argued against that chamber’s “right-to-work” measure — knowing that reason, logic and fairness had no chance against the dark money that influenced a majority of the legislators’ votes.
“We stand here today debating this issue — not at the request of our constituents — but because politicians, beholden to special interests, have promised that so-called ‘right-to-work’ would be finally passed in 2017,” Walsh said in a lengthy speech.
“On this issue, facts do not seem to mean much, because lines have been drawn,” said Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors). “Sides have been chosen. Any appeal to rational thought, evidence or policy implications stands small against the millions in dark money that have bought this issue passage.
“This isn’t just a union issue,” she said. “This is a pocketbook issue. ‘Right-to-work’ hurts the economy. It hurts the middle-class families that drive the economy. It hurts all of us.
“For generations, union workers fought — and sometimes died — for rights the rest of the world is still catching up to: The right to a safe and humane workplace; the right to compensation if you’re hurt on the job; the right to fair wages; the 40-hour work week; child-labor laws; sick leave; health insurance, and even the weekend.
“Those victories lifted the living standards of working families everywhere — union and nonunion,” she said.
Walsh said the Republican argument that more businesses and industries would pour into Missouri if the state had a “right-to-work” law was completely false. Studies show “right-to-work” is not a compelling reason for companies to locate here, and its absence has not kept companies away.
“They invest here because of the positive working relationship that labor unions and businesses have preserved over the years — without government interference,” she said.
Unions in Missouri “have built our economy” with fair wages, health insurance and retirement plans, Walsh said. Union pension funds have created thousands of housing units and almost $1 billion in investments in the state.
“Some folks seem content with ignoring the facts: That Missouri ended 2016 with record employment; that we led the Midwest in manufacturing growth, and that we created more jobs than any of our neighboring states — yes, even the ones with ‘right-to-work’ already on the books,” she said.
“Lest we forget: This country was not built by politicians or special interests,” Walsh said. “This country was built by working men and women. Union men and women.
“Right-to-work is wrong for Missouri,” she said. “My heart breaks for the working families of this state who will suffer under its impact: Lower wages, fewer jobs and an irreparable wound upon the fabric of our nation.”