JEFFERSON CITY — An effort to ban public employee unions from automatically deducting dues from a member's paycheck has been gaining momentum across the country, but Missouri Democrats were able to stall it — at least for now.
Missouri is just the latest of a long list of states to consider what supporters call "paycheck protection" but that opponents say is an attack on the power of collective bargaining.
Currently, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio, Michigan and Washington state have enacted similar paycheck laws, with others — including bordering Kansas — looking into it. California voters rejected a ballot measure last year that would have prevented unions from using paycheck deductions for political purposes. And the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Idaho's law paving the way for other states to move forward in passing different versions of "paycheck protection."
"The union bosses we believe can get their money the same way everyone else gets there money, by making requests and invoicing that entity and then collecting," said Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.
Missouri's measure, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, would apply to public employee unions. Organizations representing teachers, state employees and city and county workers would not be able to collect dues directly from members' paychecks. Public employees who are considered "first responders," such as police officers and firefighters, would be exempt from the bill and could still have their dues automatically deducted.
Democrats spent this week blocking the measure on the Senate floor. They accuse Republicans with solving a problem that doesn't exist and pushing a hidden agenda.
"There is too much money going to Democrats for elections," said union member Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City.
Brown's proposal also would require union leaders to receive annual consent from individual members to spend their dues for political purposes, in addition to billing them for dues. Historically, labor unions contribute heavily to Democrats.
Missouri's Senate passed a similar bill in 2011, but that measure died in the House. That legislation would've required the state's voters to sign off on the paycheck plan.
The current bill is one of a series of measures opposed by labor unions likely to get consideration in Missouri's legislature this year.
House and Senate committees have already conducted hearings on legislation that would eliminate union membership as a condition of employment for certain jobs, known as "right-to-work." This week, the House also passed a measure to let school districts opt-out of paying the state's wage requirement from construction projects and maintenance.
The Senate was not able to resolve its differences on "paycheck protection" this week, but Republican leaders vowed to press on with the bill.
"We are going to do it," said Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin.
But Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, said she remains just as committed to blocking the legislation.
"We cannot lay down on this," she said. "If we allow this bill to be enacted in law we will open the door to right-to-work."