Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Missouri Right-To-Work Bill Appears Dead -- For Now

Posted By on Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 8:29 AM

The Missouri Senate yesterday failed to come to a vote after debating for three hours a bill that would prohibit unions from operating "closed shop" businesses in the state.

Supporters of the so-called "right-to-work" initiative -- which bars unions from collecting fees and dues from all employees as a condition of employment -- believe that such a law would make Missouri more attractive to employers looking to open a business in the state. Union employees counter that the bill is part of a national effort to weaken the role of organized labor and ultimately lower the wages and benefits of working-class Missourians.

Luann Ridgeway, a Republican from north of Kansas City, is the sponsor of the bill, which enjoys the support of many of her G.O.P. colleagues and business interests such as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. However, support is not unilateral.

Several Republican senators -- including Jim Lembke of Lemay, Kim Engler of Farmington and Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey of St. Charles -- oppose the bill. So do all eight Democrats in the Senate, who've threatened a filibuster to stall the bill.

For now, the bi-partisan opposition seems strong enough to keep the bill from advancing. Yesterday's debate ended without the bill coming up for a vote; that means it's next chance of being heard is following the legislature's spring break, when it will have to compete for floor time with a host of other legislation.

And even if the measure passes the Senate, it faces an uncertain future elsewhere. As the Associated Press reports today, Speaker of the House Steven Tilley is on record as saying right-to-work is not one of his priorities. Governor Jay Nixon also opposes right-to-work and could veto any such bill from becoming law.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting tidbit from the March 7 New Yorker. In the early 1960s, one in four U.S. workers belonged to a union. Today, in the private sector, that number stands at just one in fifteen.

To which one wonders, do we really need legislation to further diminish the role of unions?

Related content: Right to Work Bill Under Debate in Missouri With Scant Media Attention

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