Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed a law designed to weaken unions that has had great legislative success in Midwestern states recently. The bill’s supporters in the state legislature said they would attempt to override the governor’s veto.
HB 116, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), would have prohibited an employer from requiring a person to become a member of a labor organization as a condition or continuation of employment.
Right-to-work policies, pushed by right-wing think tanks like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have become commonplace even in states with strong union traditions, including Wisconsin. HB 116 has similar language to ALEC right-to-work copycat legislation. Burlison, who has ties to ALEC, introduced similar legislation during the 2013 legislative session in Missouri.
Missouri Republicans, even with a record number of representatives in the state legislature, could not force through the controversial measure meant to strip unions of their funding source.
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So-called right-to-work laws have had negative effects on wages, income, access to health care, and other measures of quality of life. The median household income is 11.8 percent less in states with right-to-work policies, compared to states in which “right to work” isn’t written into law. Almost 26 percent of jobs in right-to-work states are in low-wage occupations, compared with 18 percent of jobs in other states, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.
Nixon said the bill would have weakened collective bargaining rights that have been the “foundation of the American middle-class,” while giving prepared remarks during an event at an auto assembly plant Thursday.
“This extreme measure would take our state backward, squeeze the middle-class, lower wages for Missouri families, and subject businesses to criminal and unlimited civil liability,” Nixon said. “Right-to-Work is wrong for Missouri, it’s wrong for the middle-class—and it should never become law in the Show-Me State.”
The votes on final passage in both the house and the senate fell short of the two-thirds majority required to override the governor’s veto. The bill was passed by the house with a 92-66 vote. The senate passed the bill with a 21-13 vote.
To override the governor’s veto, anti-union lawmakers would need to secure votes from 17 more house members and two more senators. Lawmakers will have an opportunity to override the veto during a legislative session in September.
If anti-union legislators can successfully override the governor’s veto, Missouri would be the 26th state to pass so-called right to work legislation that systematically limits unions’ abilities to collect fees from non-members.
Burlison said that he thinks there is enough momentum behind the legislation, and that it is “inevitable” lawmakers will vote to override the governor’s veto.
“It is extremely disappointing to me that the governor has again turned his back on the people of this state by vetoing a pro-worker bill that would create the kind of family-supporting jobs we need to accelerate our economic engine,” Burlison told the Springfield News-Leader.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a group that supports a host of anti-union legislation, issued a statement criticizing Nixon for standing against the right-to-work law.
“Gov. Nixon chose to use this issue as a political prop to grab media headlines instead of taking advantage of a strong economic development tool that is proven to add good-paying jobs,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber and Industry president and CEO.