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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Nixon should warm up veto pen, kill anti-worker measures

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 12, 2012

Workers in the Show-Me State can breathe a sigh of relief. On Thursday afternoon, the Missouri legislature broke for spring vacation.

For the next week, there will be no attempts to diminish your rights, make it easy to fire you, reduce your pay or otherwise continue efforts to turn Missouri into a state where employers are holding all the cards in a game of poker.

The bad news is that before they left the Capitol, the Republicans who run the place sent two bills to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. One bill would make it easier to discriminate against workers; the other would make it harder for workers or their families to receive compensation for being exposed to toxic chemicals while at work.

Mr. Nixon should veto both House Bill 1219 and Senate Bill 572.

Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, the sponsor of the pro-discrimination bill, calls both bills "pro-jobs." He is right, if you believe that making it easier for unethical employers to fire people will magically entice corporations to come to Missouri so that they can poison and discriminate with few repercussions.

Mr. Dempsey's bill changes Missouri employment law to make it harder to prove discrimination. It caps damages juries can award if a worker sues for employment discrimination. The cap not only would limit employer costs, but it also might make it harder for a worker to find a lawyer to argue his case. The bill also makes it harder for whistle-blowers to receive protection and caps awards in their cases.

The bill has been pushed for years by St. Louis-based Enterprise Rent-a-Car and other firms run by major Republican donors. Mr. Nixon vetoed it last year. He should not hesitate to do so again.

The shame of the other veto-worthy bill, a workers' compensation measure sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, is that there is a serious need for a good worker-protection bill. Both employers and employees need protection from mistakes the legislature made in a 2005 bill that successfully lowered workers' compensation costs.

That law removed occupational diseases from the workers' compensation system and created a situation in which it is too easy to hold fellow employees legally responsible for errors that should be covered by their bosses.

There is widespread, bipartisan agreement on how to fix those problems. But pushed on by their corporate donors, including Joplin roofing magnate David Humphreys, most Republicans in the legislature insist on punishing the grieving families of workers who die from mesothelioma as a result of inhaling asbestos. The survivors would get nothing but a paltry $10,000 death benefit.

When Mr. Nixon vetoes both bills, as he must, Republicans will accuse him of being in the pocket of his major donors, trial lawyers. That's what this years-long battle is really about. It's a proxy war between powerful special interests: the trial lawyers and the corporations who want to protect their bottom lines. No doubt, plenty of lawyers are making a killing in this area of law.

But guess what? They represent real injured people or the families of workers who have been killed, perhaps by the negligence of companies who now don't want to pay for their mistakes.

Lawmakers could have found a compromise to both bills, fixing broken elements of law while protecting workers at the same time. They chose politics over pragmatism.

Call their bluff, governor.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.


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Comments

Gary Straub March 12, 2012 | 10:26 a.m.

This is exactly why John Edwards was crucified, he fought corporations...and lost. Governor Nixon needs to do the right thing and veto these blatantly Orwellian bills.

(Report Comment)
Mike Sykuta March 12, 2012 | 1:21 p.m.

Such hyperbole from a "major newspaper's" own staff editorial is why the St. Louis Post-Disgrace wears the title of major newspaper in quotes. Once again, they live up to their pejorative nickname.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor March 12, 2012 | 2:27 p.m.

I don't know why they even let private citizens own companies. It's obvious to all of us that every business owner is a blood sucking nazi pig and can't be trusted to operate a business. The government would do a much better job of watching the bottom line. The government never overspends on anything and they can just make more money whenever they want without any consequences... Since they have to keep their, and their legal teams, fingers in every aspect of the business, and workers couldn't possibly be expected to make a choice about where they work based on the conditions, it seem to make perfectly good sense to just cut out the middle men and get the government in there to replace all the nazi's...

They (gubment) did such a good job with the mortgage industry. They got in there and kept those nazi's from only offering mortgages to those that could prove their income and pay the loans back. Showed them nazi's. Then, when Barney Frank and the rest of the do gooders kept saying everything was all peaches and cream at Fannie and Freddie the execs there went along with the lies since they were in the lib pockets and any admission of trouble at the companies would have meant that the good libs were lying... Big deal if that constitutes fraud in the tens of billions. It was all for a good cause! That's why I was so touched when I heard that the government has paid over half a billion dollars (466 mil as of last July, now well over 500 mil...) in defense costs to defend these very people that defrauded us. (I wonder what the libs ROI was on all this (our) money handed out to the lawyers?) It was all to help the poor. Nothing else matters.

Kumbaya...

(Report Comment)

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