RTW dies in the Missouri Legislature

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MIssouri Capitol
The Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City.

Jefferson City – Missouri workers took a pair of hits this legislative session, but one of the most concerning, right-to-work (for less), failed to make it out of the House or Senate.

One measure in the House would have put the right-to-work (for less) question before voters in August 2014. A separate measure in the Senate, which would have made Missouri a right-to-work (for less) state, never made it out of committee.

Mike Louis, secretary treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO said legislators appeared unwilling to touch the measure, due in part, perhaps, to the reluctance of some Republican legislators to have to vote for right-to-work (for less) when they face re-election in 2014.

Missouri voters defeated right-to-work (for less) once before in 1978.

“I think they were uneasy about testing the waters,” Louis said.

That was not the case with two other measures: paycheck deception and a targeted prevailing wage bill.

PAYCHECK DECEPTION

The Missouri House gave final passage last week to legislation that would limit labor unions' ability to deduct dues and fees from the paychecks of public employees.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who was supported by labor in his re-election last November, is widely expected to veto the measure.

Passed in the final week of the legislative session, Senate Bill 29 (SB29), a reckless “paycheck protection” measure, would strip the rights of Missouri workers and do nothing to protect anyone’s paycheck.

“This bill has nothing to do with helping working people,” Mike Louis, secretary treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO said. “It is shameful that instead of correcting real problems faced by the workers who care for our veterans, teach and protect children at risk from abuse and neglect, and serve so many other critical roles, politicians chose to again reward special interests at the expense of our everyday heroes.”

Sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla) and handled in the House by State Representative Eric Burlison (R, Springfield), SB 29 would force public employee unions, with the exception of first responders, to ask each worker, individually, every time they want to use non-dues dollars for politics.

The bill also says public worker unions cannot negotiate mandatory dues collection, without yearly approval from the workers.

“I think the Governor is very likely to veto it,” Louis said.

PREVAILING WAGE

The Legislature also passed a prevailing wage bill earlier in the month that would change the way wage requirements are calculated for construction projects in rural counties.

The prevailing wage for a given trade is currently calculated based on voluntary surveys collected and submitted by contractors on a public works project.

The bill now sitting on the Governor’s desk, House Bill 34 (HB34), sponsored by Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) would require those wage surveys to be split between union and non-union wages. Then the wage would be set by whichever group, union or non-union, reported more hours of work. If there are no reports for a current year, the wage would then be set by an average of reports from the last six years.

Opponents contend that scrapping the current system will lower wages and lead to cut-rate contractors pouring into Missouri from other states.

Gov. Nixon could still veto the measure.

TRANSPORTATION SALES TAX

In a less direct blow to labor, a proposed one-cent transportation sales tax died in the Missouri Senate following a Republican-led filibuster of the measure.

The measure, which would have been placed on the November 2014 statewide ballot, sought to raise an estimated $8 billion over 10 years to rebuild a 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 and finance state and local transportation projects.

Under the proposal, the state sales tax rate would have climbed to 5.225 percent from 4.225 percent. The tax would have expired in 10 years unless voters renewed it.

Sen. Ryan McKenna (D-Crystal City) said the measure would have created thousands of jobs. McKenna, a member of Laborers Local 110, co-sponsored the measure in the Senate.

A group of senators led by Sen. John Lamping (R-Ladue) stalled a vote on the bill last week, objecting to the size of the tax increase.

 (PAI News Service contributed to this story.)

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