After Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed legislation banning compulsory union membership and involuntary donations to labor unions as a condition of employment in the state’s workplaces, a vote to override the veto fell 13 votes short of the necessary supermajority needed to enact the bill into law.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield), says each attempt to preserve workers’ paychecks and freedom of association has come closer to succeeding.
“When I first filed the bill four years ago, no one had ever filed it in Missouri, and it was kind of a taboo issue,” Burlison said. “So, then, I filed it again, and the first year I filed it, the speaker would not even give it a hearing.
“Then, the next year, I filed it and had convinced the speaker at the time to give it a hearing,” Burlison said. “It was an absolute circus.
“So, then, the third year we filed [a bill that would make Missouri a right-to-work state], we got it debated on the House floor, but we didn’t get it voted out of the House and to the Senate,” Burleson said. “This last year, we filed it again, had it voted out again, got it out of committee, out of the House, and over to the Senate by February.”
‘Freedom to Associate’
Burlison says preserving workers’ freedom of association is important to him.
“If an individual finds that being a member of a union is in their best interests, then they should have the right and the freedom to associate with [people] they wish to associate with,” Burleson said. “If you’re being compelled to associate, then that’s not freedom. People left England because they were being compelled to be part of the Church of England.”
More Freedom, More Jobs
Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University, says right-to-work laws benefit workers.
“Where you have a right-to-work law, workers are given greater freedom,” Vedder said. “They’re not constrained. They’re not forced to do something they don’t want to, such as join a union or pay dues to the union.”
Right-to-work laws also promote economic growth, Vedder says.
“If you look at the states bordering Missouri, and you look at their economic growth since 2010—just per capita income growth—and you [compare] Missouri’s with other states, correct for inflation, and [make] the appropriate adjustments, Missouri ranks dead last,” Vedder said.
Amelia Hamilton ([email protected]) writes from Traverse City, Michigan.
W. Robert Reed, “How Right-To-Work Laws Affect Wages,” Journal of Labor Research: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/how-right-work-laws-affect-wages/