Mike Parson supports right-to-work, but questions Senate’s approach

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Sen. Mike Parson, a Republican who wants to be Missouri’s next governor, said Monday he thinks “right to work” is worth giving a shot.

But, in an interview Monday, Parson did question why Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was pushing the issue so hard ahead of a likely veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

“If you can’t get it across the finish line, you have to weigh out why you’re doing it,” he said. “Can we get this done and get an override over the governor after he vetoes, and can you not? I think that as to be part of the equation. I hope people have thought that through.”

Parson, who chaired the committee that passed a House “right-to-work” bill on Monday, said he will vote for the bill, but would not say whether he would support a rarely used motion to cut off debate and force an end to an imminent Democratic filibuster.

At Monday’s hearing, Parson said he was “surprised there weren’t more to testify in favor of it,” but still feels the policy is good for the state. “I’ve been a supporter and feel like it’s worth giving a try,” he added.

Richard, a Joplin Republican who backs the policy, told reporters Friday that he planned to force a vote on the measure, despite opposition to the policy from Senate Democrats and even a number of Republicans, including Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey.

The policy aims to restrict where unions can get their money. Under current law, if a union is representing workers in a shop, it can collect representation fees from all of the workers, even ones who are not members. Without that mechanism, labor activists have said that a “free-rider” problem emerges, where some workers will reap the rewards of a union representative without paying for it.

In right-to-work states, like a growing number of Midwestern states and most of Missouri’s neighbors, unions are barred from making representation fees, or union dues, a condition of employment.

The Missouri House of Representatives, for the first time in the state’s history, advanced the measure in February by a vote of 91-64. While that is further than the bill has gone before, it was short of the 110 votes required to override a likely veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Richard, who controls when bills come up for votes (coveted time slots in the final five days of session when every minute of debate on one bill is a minute lost on another), said right-to-work could likely come up before a measure with wide support that would extend Missouri’s Federal Reimbursement Allowance program, which provides the state about $3 billion for Medicaid each year.

“There’s priorities on both sides of the aisle,” Richard said. “If mine don’t make it, nobody else’s is going to, either. We’re going to do our stuff first, which is my stuff, which is right-to-work.”

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