A resolution offered by Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville to put a “right-to-work” constitutional amendment on the ballot has made quick progress after sitting untouched from late January until early May.
Missouri lawmakers passed a “right-to-work” law in 2017, banning mandatory union fees, but the law was put on hold after more than 300,000 people signed a petition to get a measure on the ballot that would repeal the law if passed.
Hours before the House debated Brattin’s resolution, the Senate passed its own resolution that would move the ballot measure to repeal “right-to-work” from November to August over a late-night filibuster from Senate Democrats. That resolution still needs House approval.
Brattin’s resolution has not yet passed either chamber and with the legislature heading into its final week, time is short. If the resolution passes, Missouri voters could see conflicting “right-to-work” questions on their ballots.
Brattin said the Missouri Constitution allows for conflicting ballot measures, and if both are approved in the same election, the measure with the highest number of votes would pass.
Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said having conflicting measures could be confusing for voters. Over 300,000 Missourians have already put “right-to-work” on the ballot, so she questioned why the legislature needed to put another measure on.
On Friday, the House adopted an amendment to Brattin’s resolution changing the language that would appear on the ballot. The original language asked voters if they wanted to “prohibit as a condition of employment membership in, or payment of dues or fees” to unions.
The new language, added as an amendment by Brattin, is written in terms of “freedom to work” and mentions no prohibition. It would ask voters if they want to “provide that every employee shall have the freedom to work without being forced to pay any fees to a union.”
Brattin said “right-to-work” would protect Missourians’ freedoms to not associate with people they don’t want to associate with, and his proposed ballot measure would enshrine it in the Missouri Constitution.
Quade noted the term “freedom to work” that appears in the amended ballot language is also the name of a group that tried to put a measure similar to Brattin’s on the ballot by petition, but failed to get the required signatures.
Brattin proposed the resolution at the start of session and the bill was first assigned to committee on Monday, taking its first steps after four months. On Wednesday, A New Missouri, a nonprofit group with ties to Gov. Eric Greitens, gave Freedom to Work $500,000. On that same day, the resolution sped through two House committees.
The House did not consider an amendment from Rep. Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills, which would have kept people who want to opt out of paying union dues from benefiting from any agreement negotiated by that union.
He said his amendment would end the “freeloader system” created by “right-to-work” and wouldn’t let those who opt out of paying union dues “get something for nothing.”
Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, agreed and said the House should go for Smith’s amendment.
“If you don’t want to be a part of (the union), don’t pay into it and don’t benefit from my negotiations,” May said. “Negotiate your own salary and your own benefits.”
Who counts when the legislature redistricts?
The House passed a different resolution on Wednesday, offered by Rep. Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, to get a measure on the ballot that would only count U.S. citizens when redistricting House and Senate districts.
Some Democrats criticized the move as an effort to limit representation and argued it would hurt their ability to serve their districts. Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, said she would still be serving the uncounted people living in her district, in addition to the people who would be added to her district.
Republicans argued that non-citizens should not be counted like citizens, as they don’t have the same obligations, such as registering for selective service.
If it passes the Senate, Plocher’s ballot measure would come up against the expansive elections reform measure already put on the ballot by A Clean Missouri.
A Clean Missouri’s measure would have the Senate majority and minority leaders appoint a “non-partisan state demographer” to redraw districts from a list of three candidates selected by the state Auditor.
That portion of A Clean Missouri’s measure has been criticized for giving power over election maps to the only Democrat currently holding statewide office, Auditor Nicole Galloway. Galloway was preceded by a Republican, Tom Schweich.