Missouri unions prepare for another right-to-work fight - KCTV5

Missouri unions prepare for another right-to-work fight

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -

Missouri labor groups are gearing up for another fight against right-to-work legislation, which some Republicans think has a better chance of passing this year because of their party's recent gains in the Legislature.

A new crop of Republican freshmen, including some who won competitive races in swing districts, may decide the fate of this year's right-to-work legislation, which would bar unions from collecting fees from non-member workers, including fees to cover the costs of negotiating the contracts that cover union members and non-members, alike. House Speaker John Diehl said the measure would likely make it to the floor for debate during the current legislative session.

Rep. Ron Hicks, a Republican from St. Peters who opposes making Missouri a right-to-work state, said he thinks his party's bigger majority in the House makes it more likely it would pass this year's bill. He voted against last year's version, which was abandoned after it failed to reach the constitutional majority needed for passage in an initial vote.

"This will divide our caucus again and cause bad feelings between people," Hicks said.

A House committee backed two right-to-work measures on Wednesday. The measures, which would eventually be rolled into a single bill, would need to be approved again before they could go to the full House for a vote.

The right-to-work movement has also gained qualified support this session from at least one Democratic member. Rep. Courtney Curtis, a Democrat from Berkeley, sponsored a bill that would apply right-to-work standards only to the construction industry. The House committee also approved that bill on Wednesday.

Last year's right-to-work bill drew a lot of interest from national conservative groups, including Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, Freedom Works and The American Conservative Union.

Supporters of the legislation say it would encourage businesses to move to Missouri or to expand in the state, which would drive economic growth. Business groups generally support such legislation.

Rep. Eric Burlison, a Republican from Springfield who has been pushing right-to-work measures for years, said he doesn't think people should be forced to contribute to a group that they don't agree with.

Opponents say strong unions are integral to preserving middle-class wages and that worker wages are lower in right-to-work states. They also point out a Supreme Court case that bars unions from collecting dues from non-members but does allow for fees for collective bargaining and other services provided if the contract with the employer provides for that.

If right-to-work passes, unions would have to represent people who pay nothing to the organization, creating a freeloader problem, said Mike Louis, Missouri AFL-CIO president.

Louis said he's confident there are not enough votes in the House to override a veto of right-to-work. He said the group has a team of 10 union members lobbying for the issue and still retains the services of Steve Tilley, a former House Speaker.

"I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of freshmen who are willing to work with us and understand our issues," he said.

Several freshmen Republican from the St. Louis area said they are opposed to the measure, including Representatives Becky Ruth, of Festus, Dan Shaul, of Imperial, and Shane Roden, of Cedar Hill.

Ruth and Roden defeated Democratic incumbents to win and Shaul took an open but previously Democratic seat.

Shaul said he was still learning more about the issue, but that his district is "pro-life, pro-gun and pro-union." Roden, who was a member of a firefighter's union, said it could create freeloaders who get benefits without paying for them and that it fit with his conservative principles.

"I don't believe in government sticking its business into private enterprise," Roden said.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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