EARTH CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation Tuesday to ban local governments from mandating union working conditions for construction projects, a move he touted as a way to lower costs of public construction but met pushback from Democrats and unions.
Missouri counties, cities and other local governments currently have the option to issue bid requirements mandating union working conditions for contractors if the projects are less than half funded by the state.
Greitens in a statement said those agreements "drive up the cost of construction and kill jobs."
The measure passed this year by the Republican-led Legislature will ban the practice completely. Governments that violate the law will lose state funding and tax credits for two years. It takes effect Aug. 28.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who signed similar legislation in April, during a bill signing by Greitens at a remanufacturing plant in suburban St. Louis praised the action by Missouri's new GOP governor.
"It's nice to have a governor who's actually delivering on behalf of the workers and taxpayers in this state," Walker said.
Greitens and other supporters said the change will give more opportunities to non-union contractors and make it cheaper to build schools and other public buildings.
But some Democratic opponents in the Legislature argued it limits local choice, will lead to low-quality workmanship on public buildings and will mean lower wages for workers.
St. Louis Democrat Sen. Jake Hummel, the secretary-treasurer of the state AFL-CIO union, told The Associated Press the so-called project labor agreements are rare and used to ensure projects are completed on time, under budget and with skilled laborers.
"When we're talking about such a small amount of projects, why are we making sure that we're taking one more tool out of a local government's toolbox?" Hummel said.
Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber in a statement said Greitens' signature is "rubbing salt in the wounds of working families by celebrating another attack on their paychecks," referencing legislation passed this year to ban local minimum wages that are higher than the state's wage floor.
Webber also said Walker's appearance shows the governor "is attacking local workers in order to impress big money and corporate donors from around the country."
The legislation is one of several changes to state labor policies proposed by Greitens, who took office in January.
Within a month of taking office, Greitens signed a right-to-work law banning mandatory union fees — a big win for Republicans. His election has eased the path for labor legislation supported by Republican legislative leaders that failed to become law under former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this report from Jefferson City, Missouri.