By Collin Reischman
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation that would change the way union fees are collected for political purposes passed the House by a vote of 90-65 Wednesday, joining similar legislation passed by the Senate earlier in the week.
House Bill 64, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would require labor organizations to receive annual authorization from their members before deducting fees used for political purposes.
Under current law, a union member decides upon their hiring whether they would like to make contributions unrelated to union dues, which would be used exclusively for political purposes. The employee may opt out of those payments at any time.
Burlison’s bill states that dues could only be deducted for political activity upon annual approval from each member of the organization.
Republican supporters of the bill said it would be an expansion of the “right of conscience,” to prevent union members from supporting politicians and policies out odds with their own beliefs.
Democratic opposition called it an attack on unions and an “unnecessary law.”“This bill will add a layer of bureaucracy and mandates on a specific organization which we don’t put on anyone else,” Rep. Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City, said during floor debate. “Why are we regulating one group in particular in their speech? Is it because the people supporting this bill don’t like what they have to say?”
McManus, as well as other Democrats, said the bill would add an additional burden on labor organizations with regard to political donations, effectively prohibiting their free speech.
Members of the majority, led by sponsor Burlison, dismissed the concerns by Democrats as “overblown,” and emphasized they did not believe an annual reauthorization form constituted a major burden.
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Collin Reischman is the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. To contact Collin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @CMReischman