JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – When Senate Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh began listing each right-to-work state’s own provisions on whether or not the violation of that law caused civil liability or criminal penalties, the Democrats’ debate over Sen. Dan Brown’s right-to-work bill appeared ready to go into the night.
A few minutes later, Brown asked for the legislation to be laid on the informal calendar.
The hour-and-a-half long discussion, mostly among the Democrats, indicated the superminority party would not allow the Republicans to pass the bill without a fight. Yet the Senate has more than enough votes to pass the bill and more than enough support from Gov. Eric Greitens; any passage of the bill means it will become law. Republicans have also made their intentions known on the bill in the past: the first previous question of the last Senate was used on 2015’s right-to-work bill.
Brown introduced SB 19 at 4:30 p.m., calling it a necessary bill to ensure the freedom of workers and to encourage corporations and businesses, especially manufacturers, to come to Missouri.
“This solves forced unionism,” he said. “You do not have to be a member of a union in order to work at the workplace you’re working.”
After he spoke, Sen. Jason Holsman, D-St. Louis, and Sen. Gina Walsh each offered amendments to stifle some of the bill’s provisions.
Walsh’s amendment did not receive a vote as the bill was tabled before debate ended, but it would remove a section of the bill that gives victims of people who violate the law a chance to receive the full recovery of damages, including attorney’s fees.
Holsman attempted to attach a referendum clause to the legislation which would have sent the bill to a vote of the people in Nov. 2018. He acknowledged the 2016 elections gave Republicans in Missouri almost full control of the executive branch, but he believed labor issues were not the issue Republicans won on, pointing to a MO Scout poll that showed Missourians did not favor passage of a right-to-work bill.
“We just recently had an election on this issue, in which our side prevailed,” Brown said. “It was no secret on how this was presented in the election process.”
The amendment failed 12-21 with Sens. Ryan Silvey, Gary Romine and Paul Wieland voting with the Senate Democrats. The same referendum amendment offered by Rep. Doug Beck in the House failed to make it onto Rep. Holly Rehder’s right-to-work bill.
Labor looking to referendum
The referendum option has become increasingly popular with labor supporters as the Republican-led government has a high chance of signing the bill into law before the end of February. Mike Louis, the president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, has submitted multiple initiative petitions to go to the ballot in 2018 asking Missourians to guarantee the right of collective bargaining between employees and employers. Former state rep. candidate Mary Hill and two other Kansas City residents filed lawsuits calling the language in the IP’s summaries unfair and misleading.
Former state rep. candidate Mary Hill and two other Kansas City residents filed lawsuits calling the language in the IP’s summaries unfair and misleading. Hill and her fellow plaintiffs are backed by the National Right to Work Committee, who criticized former Secretary of State Jason Kander for approving that particular ballot language.
“Missourians should be outraged that outgoing Secretary of State Jason Kander, who was supported by thousands of dollars of forced dues in his recent unsuccessful Senate campaign, granted union bosses this huge political payoff just before stepping out of office,” NRWC president Mark Mix said in a statement. “All workers should have the right to get or keep a job without having to pay tribute to a union boss, and those rights should not be put in jeopardy because of a political favor given to union hours before he leaves office.”
Louis questioned the federal body’s concern in the matter.
“Why is a DC-based special interest group, funded by the uber-rich, challenging the rights of hard-working Missourians to have their voices heard at the ballot box?” Louis said in a statement. “This attack on the ballot language filed by an elected representative of Missouri’s working families is nothing more than an attempt by a dark money group to expand swamp into our great state.”