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Onder testifies against federal bills strengthening collective bargaining for public unions before Congress


Missouri state Sen. Bob Onder was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before Congress regarding a pair of bills that would strengthen collective bargaining for public unions and the federal government’s involvement. 

One measure would set a nationwide standard for collective bargaining all states would have to adhere to while ensuring all public sector employees could participate in collective bargaining; the other bill would give public safety officers the right to form labor unions and collectively bargain while entrusting the Federal Labor Relations Authority to ensure all states comply.  

Onder, a Republican, testified in opposition to the bills before the House Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Wednesday, arguing it should be up to individual states to establish their labor laws. 

“If there is one thing we can agree on here, it’s that different states have very different approaches to labor policy,” Onder said. “Congress has no business centralizing all of this power in the Federal Labor Relations Authority. It would be an enormous federal overreach and a violation of the principle of federalism to do so.”

“Our current system of state control of public sector labor relations allows states to use that sovereign power to balance the interests of public employees and unions, citizens, and taxpayers,” he continued.

Of the six witnesses, only two people — including Onder — spoke in opposition to the bills during the nearly three-hour hearing. Onder said he believes a “one-size-fits-all policy would really preclude labor laws in all 50 states.” 

“I think that’s a violation of the principle of democratic government, it’s a violation of the principle of federalism, and I think it’s a really bad policy for the people of Missouri as well as for the people of the other 49 states,” Onder told The Missouri Times from Washington, D.C. 

During the hearing, Onder drew the ire of U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), a sponsor of HR 3463, dubbed the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. As the daughter of parents who were involved with unions and as a former state lawmaker who advocated for unions,  Finkenauer said Wednesday’s hearing was “personal,” but it left her “frustrated and disappointed.” 

“Senator Onder, you are a neighbor to my home state of Iowa,” Finkenauer said. “I have to tell you, I’ve done some research while I’ve been up here, and your rhetoric you’ve been spewing against unions and also your record against working families is disappointing and quite frankly offensive.” 

Onder was not given a chance to respond to Finkenauer, one of the youngest people elected to Congress. 

Last year, Onder helped champion HB 1413, a “paycheck protection” bill that required consent before unions could withhold earnings from paychecks and annual authorization for labor unions to use dues and fees for political contributions with some exceptions. It was signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens in 2018, but a St. Louis County judge halted it from going into effect earlier this year, pending the outcome of ongoing litigation. Labor organizations challenged the legislation, arguing it placed undue restraints on an employee’s collective bargaining abilities in the state. 

Missouri voters last year defeated a so-called right-to-work measure which would have prevented employers from requiring workers to pay fees as a condition of employment. The Show-Me State is one of only four states that expressly protects collective bargaining in its constitution. 

It says “employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”

You can watch the entire congressional hearing below.