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Is Missouri headed for "Right to Work" showdown?

Changes to labor laws possible as 97th General Assembly opens session

January 08, 2013|by Jerry Jacob, KY3 News | jjacob@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Prepare yourself for a passionate and divisive debate in the upcoming Missouri General Assembly.  The only question is, which issue or issues will catch fire with the lawmakers and the public?

As work begins in Jefferson City, one front-runner is the "right to work" issue.  Recently several states including Wisconsin and Michigan have had contentious political battles on proposals to change long-standing rules regarding labor. 

In Missouri, the 97th General Assembly opened Wednesday, but several bills to alter current Missouri labor law have already been filed.  One that would essentially make Missouri a "right to work" state is sponsored by Representative Eric Burlison (R-Springfield).  House Bill 77 can be viewed HERE.

“Right now Missouri is a union shop state where employees of businesses with collective bargaining agreements are forced to pay union dues after a certain period in order to maintain employment," Burlison said in a press release.  “My legislation would institute the level of workplace fairness and equity that employees deserve. It would ensure workers can maintain their employment even if they choose not to join a union.”

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If ever there was a legislature with potential to change Missouri labor laws significantly, this assembly would appear to be it.  Republicans hold a super-majority in both chambers, a majority large enough to override any governor's veto.

KY3 News spoke with three legislators from Springfield to hear their views on several issues, including "right to work," prior to the start of the session: Republican representative Lincoln Hough, Democratic representative Charlie Norr, and Republican Senator Bob Dixon.

Taken as a whole, their statements seem to point toward a difficult road for any legislation changing Missouri's status to a "right to work" state.  However bills featuring less drastic changes to Missouri's labor rules are likely to gain more traction this session, and, given the strong Republican majority this session, have more of a chance than ever to become law.

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