JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After an eight-hour debate on Tuesday, the Missouri Senate gave approval to a policy that would aim to reduce the influence of labor unions in the state known as right-to-work – putting it one House vote away from the desk of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
The Senate approved the measure by a 21-13 vote, short of what would be required to override Nixon’s veto, that came after Senate Republicans forced an end to a Democratic-led filibuster.
Republicans in the legislature, backed by business and industry groups, want Missouri to join most of its neighbors and a growing number of midwestern states to adopt the policy which would bar employers from making representation fees or union dues a condition of employment.
The Senate Republicans running for statewide office, including Sen. Kurt Schaefer, Eric Schmitt and Mike Parson voted for “right-to-work,” while Democrat Scott Sifton voted no.
Sen. Jeanie Riddle, a Republican who opposed right-to-work as a state representative, supported during Tuesday’s vote.
“It allows the union members to take back the union. I don’t think anything in right-to-work prevents unions. I do think it makes unions much more competitive and they have to show they can do a good job for the folks paying into the system,” said Sen. Dan Brown, the bill’s sponsor.
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.
“We’re talking about an attack on the poor and the working poor,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “It’s sad.”
The vote in the state Senate came nearly three months after a similar vote in the House, where 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 109 votes required to override a likely veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.