Jefferson City, MO — The Senate Committee on Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight held it’s first hearing of the session for SB 71, commonly referred to as Paycheck Protection, on Wednesday, January 23rd in Senate Committee Room 1. The bill, which is sponsored by committee chair Senator Mike Parson, would bar public employee labor unions from collecting membership dues from employee paychecks and would forbid any use of the dues for political purposes without the expressed written consent of the employee.
Parson called the bill a necessity in the hearing and denied accusations that the bill was designed as an attack on unions.
“This is not an attack on unions, this is about employee freedom,” Parson said. “It seems to me that a public employee ought to have the right to say they don’t want to pay a union out of their paycheck.
Parson indicated that SB 71 would be attached to another piece of legislation dealing with union behavior, but declined to specify during the hearing. Senator Jamilah Nasheed, who opposes the measure and sits on the committee, strongly criticized the legislation.
“I don’t understand why we are mandating this at the state level,” Nasheed asked Parson. “If an individual already has the right to opt-out of the payments or the membership, or if the union has the power to approach their leadership and say they don’t want to do it, then why do we need to codify this into a mandate, into a law, that we don’t need?”
Nasheed said the bill was designed to “dismantle” unions in lieu of right-to-work legislation. Nasheed inquired as to whether Parson had been approached by any public employee union members regarding this bill.
“I don’t know that people have come to me about this,” Parson said. “But what I will say is that we should give people the right to decide whether or not they have union dues being collected from their paychecks, and if so, what are those dues being used for?”
Secretary-Treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, Mike Louis, rebuked the notion that union money was spent without regard for the employee.
“Labor unions are some of the most democratic organizations we have,” Louis told the committee. “Many unions provide options for dues payment. Some come from paychecks, some people choose to write one check at the beginning of the year, some people prefer deductions from a bank account, but we make those options available specifically for this reason, and if there is a problem the members have with how the dues are used, there is a democratic process in place to voice that problem. Simply put, we see this as an attack on organized labor.
Parson reiterated that his bill only applied to public employee unions.
SB 71 has not yet been scheduled for debate or reading on the floor.
Collin Reischman can be reached by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @CReischman