JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Marking another sign that Republicans are serious about Right-to-Work legislation, two bills came before the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety committee in the House today that would give Missouri voters the opportunity to reject or deny RTW status.
Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsors one of the bills, along with a RTW bill that aims to accomplish the new regulation through statute alone. Burlison said he didn’t that between a statutory change or a vote of the people, he didn’t have a preference.
“I’m just interested in whatever vehicle we think can accomplish this,” Burlison said.
Burlison came with a plethora of labor statistics arguing that RTW status would ultimately prove an economic boon for the state. Opponents, largely labor leaders and workers, presented their own data showing decreased household wages for RTW states. Burlison challenged the union data.
“Do Right-to-Work states have lower wages? Well we’ve always had lower wages in the Midwest and the South,” Burlison said. “It’s a question of causation. Applying the same logic that opponents often use, I could say that Right-to-Work states have more hurricanes. I could say you’re more likely to be bitten by an alligator in a Right-to-Work state.”
In what is becoming a routine show of force, union leaders from across the state came out to testify against the legislation. AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Mike Louis chided lawmakers for “anti-union bills” just two months removed from a major negotiation with Boeing unionized employees.
“The St. Louis Business Journal was just bragging about our union-management relations and working together to ensure Boeing has a new St. Louis contract,” Louis said. “It addresses lower wages for new hires, and one of the most expensive things since the industrial revolution: it addresses pension plans. We see Right-to-Work as making the playing field more in favor of employers and less in favor of employees, and it’s all in the name of job creation that doesn’t work.”
A second bill, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, would allow a county-by-county RTW vote. Rehder argued that southern counties like hers were strongly in favor of RTW legislation and “bleeding” jobs to neighboring RTW Arkansas.
“It is a new idea, it hasn’t been done before,” Rehder said. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad one. We’ve been having this argument for years now, and I think maybe it’s time to let local citizens decide.”
Both Burlison and Rehder said a popular vote on RTW would effectively end the debate, but neither would comment on potential political ramifications. With some Republicans concerned about a loss of House or Senate seats if RTW is placed on the ballot, the exact vehicle for RTW proponents remains unclear
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.