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.