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Wallingford discusses his business background, views on labor issues

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — When Senate Bill 29 — dubbed as “paycheck protection” by some because it seeks to regulate labor union dues being used for political contributions —was brought up in the upper chamber during veto session, the assumption was the votes were there for it to pass.

It failed.

Politicos who weren’t watching in the chamber scrambled on Twitter to find out which Republican senators voted the bill down — Wallingford voted “no,” and Sen. Gary Romine, R-St. Francois County, was absent from the vote.

A vote on labor issues is something Wallingford doesn’t take lightly as he has been heavily vested in the business industry for about 25 years.

The Senate chamber
The Senate chamber

“I’m kind of in a unique position because obviously I’m getting paid by the company and they want me to protect their interests and profitability and good, productive workers, but when you think about it, I also represent the employees and I want them to be treated fairly,” Wallingford says. “In legal terms, I guess you would say I’m representing the defendant and the plaintiff. So, I guess that’s why I have a unique view on labor issues.”

For SB 29 in particular, Wallingford says he doesn’t think the bill “really solves anything.” In terms of the “border wars,” he says there are not companies sitting on the other side of the border waiting for Missouri to implement “paycheck protection” to bring their business here.

Wallingford says he did vote for the bill the first time it went through the Senate, but not necessarily because he supported it.

“I like to have things vetted,” he says. “When I wrote intelligence reports in the Air Force or business reports here in the business community, I liked to have a lot of eyes look at them. I didn’t want to hold it up in the Senate — I wanted another 163 sets of eyes to look at it [in the House].”

In terms of prevailing wage, another big labor-related issue for conservatives, Wallingford says he isn’t necessarily against it entirely, but thinks that is should be an issue that is taken up county by county.

In more rural areas, like that which he represents, Wallingford says prevailing wage can create difficulties on the business front because for jobs that involve bidding, companies might have to reach out to places where prevailing wage has “shown to work better” like St. Louis, which can hike up costs.

Wallingford speaking on the floor earlier during session.
Wallingford speaking on the floor earlier during session.

“I completely understand why they need [prevailing wage] in big cities — the cost of living is higher” he says. “So that’s an issue I think should be taken up county by county, not just yes or no for all.”

The third, and arguably the largest, labor issue is “Right to Work,” which Wallingford says he is still looking at, though there hasn’t been much legislation on the issue that’s now being discussed as a potential ballot measure.

He says he understands that “there have been results showing economic development increase” with “Right to Work,” but still a lot of what’s discussed on the issue is ultimately opinion based instead of data driven.

“We need to make sure everyone is at the table and has input so what they have to say on why they’re for it or why they’re not for it is included,” he says. “I always say, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’ Everyone needs to have a strong voice, and right now there are statistics that support it and some against it.”

Reflecting on his most recent labor vote during veto session, Wallingford says he thinks it is important to note that no one in his caucus has leaned on him in a “heavy-handed way.”

“Obviously we all try and persuade each other to do what we think is right,” he adds. “But no one has ever made me feel like I wasn’t still part of the team. We don’t all vote the same all the time, and that’s the part that I like. I explained why I voted the way I did. I find out people, if they understand why you voted the way you did, they might not agree with you but they understand it was a logical progression.”