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Right to Work makes headway in Missouri's statehouse

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | 5:24 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Although a coalition of state business organizations kept it off their agenda for the 2011 legislative session, a measure termed "right to work" by supporters has been put on the fast track in Missouri's Senate.

The measure would prohibit any contract that forced an employee to pay service fees to a union representing other workers at the company.

The bill would prohibit agreements between unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.

Supporters say the state's current law puts Missouri at a disadvantage with neighboring states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee, which prohibit union service fee requirements.

Opponents, however, argue that without the service fee requirements, nonunion workers enjoy the benefits of contracts negotiated by organized labor without helping pay the cost.

"I think we need right to work," said Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown. "It is something that if you look at other states where it is, the industries look to move to those states."

With Tennessee being the exception, all of Missouri's bordering states with right-to-work measures have higher employment rates. Tennessee, however, added jobs in 2010, whereas Missouri lost jobs, according to information from the Census Bureau cited by the sponsor of the Senate bill — Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville.

"Every one of those right-to-work states picked up population and has a lower unemployment rate than the non-right-to-work states," Ridgeway said. "We have got to turn this situation around for the approximately 10 percent of Missourians who want to work but can't find jobs."

Ridgeway said 50 percent of manufacturing jobs seeking site locations and expansion specifically request locations in right-to-work states. She said more employment opportunities will come to Missouri if it enacts the measure.

"The worst thing about this is Missouri will never even know those jobs exist because we are not privy to the information," Ridgeway said. "The announcement for relocation will be made before we even know it exists."

Opposition comes from the left as many Democratic lawmakers argue right to work will take away the protection labor unions provide to employees and will make Missouri a less specialized state.

"Anybody can swing a hammer. Just because you can swing a hammer doesn't make you a carpenter. Just because you can screw in a light bulb doesn't make you an electrician," said Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-St. Louis County.

Ridgeway responded to this statement by citing statistics that show only 11 percent of Missouri's workforce comes from union employment and nonunion workers still have a level of excellency that is parallel with other workers in the state.

"If (Taylor) is willing to contend that 89 percent of Missouri's workforce is not specialized and not trained, then that is going to be a really high burden of proof that I think he would have to overcome," Ridgeway said.

Taylor contends that the legislature has "bigger fish to fry" and should be focusing on finding and creating jobs in the state. Taylor also argues that Missouri's bordering states are dealing with the same issues of unemployment despite right to work.

"If you can show me how us signing right to work is going to bring jobs and lessen the budget then I'm all for it. But it's not," Taylor said. "That is just some R-versus-D rhetoric. It is not going to do anything for the people who are unemployed and are honestly looking for work."

Taylor said he comes from a long line of union workers, with his father, mother, brother and wife, all members.

"It is kind of something that is near and dear to me. So luckily, by happenstance, I happen to be here to protect their interests," Taylor said.


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Comments

Layton Light February 16, 2011 | 10:08 p.m.

From an article that is currently on CNN's site: "In 1988, the income of an average American taxpayer was $33,400, adjusted for inflation. Fast forward 20 years, and not much had changed: The average income was still just $33,000 in 2008, according to IRS data. Meanwhile, the richest 1% of Americans -- those making $380,000 or more -- have seen their incomes grow 33% over the last 20 years, leaving average Americans in the dust.

Because of deals struck through collective bargaining, union workers have traditionally earned 15% to 20% more than their non-union counterparts. But union membership has declined rapidly over the past 30 years. In 1983, union workers made up about 20% of the workforce. In 2010, they represented less than 12%. The erosion of collective bargaining is a key factor to explain why low-wage workers and middle income workers have seen their wages not stay up with inflation."

This type of legislation and the right wing and libertarian demonizing of unions is one more way the rich have managed to get the uninformed voters (An overwhelming number of those voters earn in that “$33,000.00 per year range.) to work against their financial best interest. (Can you say Health Care Reform?)It's just sad and demoralizing that some of these underclass right wing legislators are actually ignorant enough to believe the cynical rhetoric of the rich business owners.

(Report Comment)
Bill Short July 10, 2011 | 9:27 p.m.

Despite what some Harvard economists say, unionism contributes to inflation by forcing employers to pay
more for lower production. I have long believed that unions should be illegal under the anti-trust laws as they are the perfect trust. Because of increased inflation, unions hurt everyone but they hurt their own members the most as they instill in them the belief that all they have to do to get along is join the mob and then not work very hard because it will make their "brothers" look bad. Unionism is in sharp decline which bodes well for America.

(Report Comment)
marvin saunders July 11, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.

Bill you must work for the state or the university.Watch a crew of union workers & then go watch a crew of state or university workers.Lets just say the union crew has 10 workers,triple that for the other two crew.Union workers don't get paid when it rains,no personal days a month,no sick leave.no paid vacations.When work is slow union workers go home no pay!So in the long run the state & university crews make more & they have more benefits.Why don't you go work on a union crew for one day my friend,I can arrange it for you.Then you can make a honest statement.

(Report Comment)

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