Missouri Lawmakers Uphold Union Rights


October 2015


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The Missouri House of Representatives in mid-September struck a significant blow in favor of the labor movement by successfully defending Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a so-called right-to-work (RTW) bill.


Nixon vetoed the measure in June, calling it “wrong for workers, wrong for business owners and wrong for Missouri.” The state house on Sept. 16 voted on whether to override that veto (among others); it remained intact.


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated, “I commend the governor, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis, and each Republican and Democratic legislator who stood strong against this attack on workers. Right to work is a corporate sham designed to weaken our rights, silence our voice, and line the pockets of the rich and powerful. Defeating Missouri’s right-to-work bill is another sign that working people are seizing the momentum.”


Presidential candidate and former Sen. Hillary Clinton also offered her support of the governor’s veto. “Right-wing attacks on the labor movement are nothing new,” she said. “But they are growing in number and intensity. I’ve been disturbed by repeated state-level attacks on basic protections that unions have fought hard for over the years, like a prevailing wage, union dues deductions, binding arbitration, and collective bargaining.”


Earlier this year, a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) concluded that wages are lower in socalled right-to-work states. The negative impact of RTW laws translates to $1,558 less a year in earnings for a typical full-time worker, or about 3.1 percent. Additionally, workers in RTW states are less likely to have employersponsored health insurance or pension coverage.


The paper was part of the EPI’s Raising America’s Pay project, a multiyear research and public education initiative to make wage growth an urgent national policy priority. Raising America’s Pay seeks to explain wage and benefit patterns—and the role of labor market policies and practices in suppressing pay—and identify policies that will generate broad-based wage growth.


RTW essentially allows workers to freeload on the backs of fellow bargaining-unit members who pay union dues. In RTW states, employees may enjoy most of the benefits of a contract and union representation without paying dues.


In his June letter explaining his veto, Nixon wrote, “The ‘right-to-work’ moniker is a misnomer. Right-towork laws create a less-skilled workforce, drive down wages and directly interfere with a business owner’s right to contract…. For generations, the right to collectively bargain has yielded benefits for all workers. Labor organizations … play a valuable role by providing the skilled workers that businesses need to compete in the global economy.”


Interestingly, the governor described the state’s proposed RTW provision as something that would “constitute unwarranted governmental interference into Missouri businesses. Currently, the only way that union membership or dues payment are required as a condition of employment is if an employer agrees to that condition. Absent the employer’s agreement, there can be no such condition. Accordingly, at its core, a so-called ‘right-to-work’ law is a government-mandated prohibition directed against an employer’s right to contract.”


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