Senate arrives at a deal on paycheck protection bill

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Senate is moving forward with another bill seeking to change the rules regarding labor unions.

In a 21-11 vote on Wednesday evening, the upper chamber approved HB 1413, a measure seeking to make it easier for public employees to opt out of union membership and paycheck deductions that would fund their union’s political advocacy work.

The legislation, more commonly referred to as paycheck protection, is sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor and Sen. Bob Onder.

“You’re not a friend of union workers,” Senator Jamilah Nasheed told Onder.

He responded that he was a friend of union workers and transparency, which is why he sponsored the legislation.

“I really view this bill as being about accountability and transparency,” he said. “I think that regular accountability to members, I think will make sure that unions are really doing what they are meant to do, which is represent workers in negotiations regarding wages and hours and working conditions and grievances to really make sure that they’re accountable to their workers instead of pursuing other agendas.”

Under the bill, any union-related deductions would require written annual authorization from the members for the purpose of being used for political purposes. Additionally, the legislation would require public labor unions to maintain comprehensive records that are electronically accessible to union members. The bill would exempt some public sector unions, like police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. In essence, Onder’s perspective on the bill is that it will give greater say over how their dues are spent.

Opponents, however, have called the measure a “paycheck deception,” saying it’s an unnecessary regulation on the unions. Senate Democrats held the floor for hours Wednesday night as both sides negotiated over the bill.

“The underlying purpose of this bill is to weaken public sector unions,” Sen. Gina Walsh said.

“It’s not always a good day when you have to deal with stuff you don’t want to,” Sen. Jake Hummel said, calling the bill a play right out of the playbook by ALEC and other conservative groups, seeking to strip rights from the workers.

“All of the power does not need to be on one side of the table.”

“I’ve been fighting this legislation literally my entire career in the legislature,” Sen. Scott Sifton said. “Better versions than this were vetoed and not overridden.”

The bill now heads back to the House for approval. If they sign off on the changes, it would then head to the Governor’s desk.

Following the Senate’s passage, Missouri Rising Executive Director Brian Rogers released this statement:

“This evening, the Senate passed legislation to protect the paychecks of workers and check the power Big Labor wields over their members. For many years, unions have used dues to support political causes and candidates that fail to reflect the interests and values of their dues-paying members. This bill will change that and give hardworking Missourians a voice on how their union dues are spent. In the closing days of this legislative session, we urge the House to again make protecting workers’ paychecks a priority in the state.”

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.