Missouri passes right-to-work bill, but governor's veto expected

Reuters News
|
Posted: May 13, 2015 5:34 PM

(Reuters) - Missouri Republican lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that would stop workers from being required to join a union or pay dues, but without enough votes to override an expected veto by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

By a 92-66 vote, the Missouri House of Representatives approved the measure that would allow Missouri to join 25 other states with "right-to-work" laws.

Republican-controlled legislatures have supported such laws, saying they would attract business and encourage economic growth. Opponents say the laws hurt unions and depress wages.

The Missouri Senate passed the bill on Tuesday by a 21-13 vote. The votes in both chambers lack the two-thirds' majority needed to overcome a veto, and some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

"Attacking workers and weakening the middle class will not create jobs," Nixon said in a statement. "In fact, rolling back the rights of working people would weaken our economy by lowering wages and making it harder for middle class families to move up the economic ladder."

House bill sponsor Eric Burlison, a Republican, noted that the veto session was not until September, giving Republicans time to win more votes. Burlison said Republicans who joined Democrats to vote against the law were from districts with high union populations and acted out of fear of retribution.

"We've got some people to win over," said Burlison. He said the state had seen a decline in salaries for individuals over the past 10 years, and had to be competitive globally.

"We have an environment where a union continues to collect dues from its members, whether it's doing a good job or not," Burlison said.

Missouri's Democratic attorney general, Chris Koster, opposed the bill, saying it was about lowering wages in the construction industry and part of a long-term effort to lower wages generally.

"Our state's future will be better if we support solid wage growth for everyone, and resist the temptation to grind down specific groups," he said in a statement.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Peter Cooney)