By TIM ROWDEN
As expected, “right-to-work” has reared its ugly head in the Missouri legislature, along with a host of anti-worker legislation designed to cripple unions and lower wages.
Missouri Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has said passing “right-to-work” is one of his top priorities.
The “right-to-work” effort is being led in the House by Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston). Her bill (HB 91) would make it a class C misdemeanor for employers and unions to negotiate a contract requiring members of a bargaining unit to pay dues for service the union must provide under federal law.
A bill identical to Rehder’s (SB 19) has been pre-filed in the Senate by Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla). A similar right-to-work bill (HB 42) is being sponsored by Rep. Bill White (R-Joplin).
All three were filed on Dec. 1, the first day for legislators to pre-file legislation for the 2017 session.
Republican legislators also pre-filed bills targeting prevailing wage, paycheck withholdings and collective bargaining representation.
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin), has said the so-called “right-to-work” law is the No. 1 issue in the Senate, meaning the proposal could sail through the Legislature after lawmakers are sworn in on Jan. 4.
House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) was sharply critical of the legislation and issued a statement calling for the measure to be placed on a statewide ballot for voters to decide.
“Providing every Missourian the opportunity for full economic participation is essential to a growing and prosperous economy and should be the No. 1 mission of every elected official,” McCann Beatty said. “Instead, Republican leaders are obsessed with so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation that, despite its deceptive name, would weaken worker rights and suppress wages.
“Since ‘right-to-work’ would mark such a massive shift in the balance of power between employers and employees, Missouri voters – not politicians and their special interest donors – must have the final say on this matter. As a result, any so-called ‘right-to-work’ bill passed by the legislature should contain a referendum clause placing it on the statewide ballot.”
Four bills limiting or repealing prevailing wage, all sponsored by Republicans, were also pre-filed in the House and Senate last week.
- HB 44, sponsored by Representative White, would prohibit the Missouri Housing Development Commission from requiring a prevailing hourly wage to be paid to a contractor on a project for a housing tax credit if it is in a Governor-declared disaster area.
- HB 78, sponsored by Representative Joe Don McGaugh (R-Carrollton) would allow public bodies to opt out of prevailing wage laws for the construction of public works projects that are $750,000 or less.
- HB 79, sponsored by Representative McGaugh, would establish the School Construction Act, which exempts construction and maintenance work done for certain school districts from the prevailing wage requirement upon the school board’s approval
- HB 104, sponsored by Representative Warren Love (R-Osceola) would repeal provisions relating to prevailing wages on public works.
- SB 20 – sponsored by Sen. Brown, again, this measure simply repeals the state’s prevailing wage law.
In the Senate, Brown also filed
- SB 21 – A paycheck deception measure requiring public employee unions to obtain annual written consent to withhold dues and fees for political purposes.
- SB 87 – A collective bargaining measure requiring the State Board of Mediation to conduct an election every two years to certify the exclusive bargaining representation of a collective bargaining unit. Under the measure, if the collective bargaining unit (union) is decertified, the affected employees may not be included in a substantially similar collective bargaining unit for 12 months from the date of decertification.
“It’s an onslaught,” Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said. “This legislation is more about the bottom line for Missouri’s greedy 1 percent and less about moving Missouri forward. Apparently, it’s time to pay back the few of the 1% who bought the Missouri Legislature this year.”
Walsh, a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1 and president of the Missouri State Building Trades Council, said the anti-worker push will send ripples through the economy as workers with less money in their pockets will spend less and utilize fewer services.
“It’s bad for the working class,” Walsh said. “It’s going to create more have nots and less haves. There won’t be a middle class. It’s going to drive wages down for everybody.”
‘YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR’
The anti-union push has been largely fueled and funded by David Humphreys.
A Joplin roofing magnate and union hater, Humphreys and his family spent more than $11 million this year trying to oust union-friendly Republicans from the Missouri Legislature and elect Eric Greitens governor. That investment bought him a business-friendly, anti-worker legislature ready and able to approve his policy priorities – chiefly “right-to-work” and reforms to the state’s legal system to make it harder, for instance, for working people to be made whole should they suffer a work-ending injury.
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said Humphreys is getting exactly what he paid for.
“When you own that many politicians because your bought them and got them elected, you get what you pay for,” Louis said. “Unfortunately, the people who are really going to pay are the working people of the state of Missouri with this bad legislation. It’s going to hurt all of the workers in Missouri.”
That’s because “right-to-work” and repeal of the prevailing wage will hurt union and non-union workers alike, driving down wages across the board.
With Republican majorities in the House and Senate, Louis said working people need to attend legislative hearings and reach out to their representatives.
"The working people off Missouri need to make their voices heard," he said.