Even with Missouri GOP Supermajority, Right-to-Work Unlikely to Pass


Weeks after Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder told attendees of an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference that his state was hoping to enact Right-to-Work legislation, the prospects that reality look grim.  Kinder said “Right-to-Work” could be achieved through a ballot measure, but some of his fellow Republicans believe this would inevitably fail and could even cost the party seats in the legislature.  

The GOP holds a supermajority in both the Missouri House and Senate, so no injustice is out of the question. But The St. Louis Beacon suggests that moderate Republicans would not be willing to publicly support the law when push comes to shove:

Kinder’s remarks were somewhat surprising as they defy conventional wisdom. Even though Republicans have supermajorities in the Missouri House and the Senate, most analysts assume that any right to work proposal would have difficulty getting out of the Missouri Senate.

That’s because a bloc of senators can often stall or kill legislation by talking a bill to death. It’s a near certainty all 10 members of the Senate Democratic caucus would participate, making it nearly impossible to stop without a “previous question” motion. The Senate hasn’t quashed debate with that maneuver since 2007.

In an email to the Beacon, Missouri AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Mike Louis said he was “skeptical” that Right-To-Work was a realistic goal for the state GOP, saying:

[It] had more to do with assuring the CEOs, who were funding the posh event at the Palmer House, that he’s on their side.

Louis went on to say that “we have had continual dialogue with state representatives and senators on both sides of the aisle who remain opposed to so-called ‘right to work’ and other attacks on middle-class Missourians.”

In the end, that may be the only accomplishment for Lt. Gov. Kinder: firming up his support for ALEC’s ideals.  An attempt to put Right-to-Work on the ballot as an initiative would result in severe union blowback and an influx of funding to stop the law in its tracks. In purple districts, Republicans could go against the extremist party line to preserve their own careers. Organized labor, specifically the AFL-CIO, has a fairly positive relationship with Republicans in the state government as evidenced by several Republicans earning union endorsements in previous elections.

One of those Republicans is Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) who in a statement said “we are set to meet as a caucus later this fall to discuss what policies we will pursue during the upcoming session.”  He added:

I believe labor reform may be a topic of conversation, and I will listen to my colleagues over the next few months as we discuss ideas to put Missouri on the path to greater economic prosperity.

Six of Missouri’s eight neighboring states have already implemented Right-to-Work. House Speaker Tim Jones tried to cow legislators with this recently:

We really have a decision to make...We can either look toward the states that are surrounding us, that are lowering their tax structure and either becoming ‘right to work’ states or maintaining that status. Or we can look to states in the Rust Belt to our east and to our north that are losing jobs, losing population and lowering and shrinking their economies.

He proclaimed that Right-to-Work would “be on the agenda for next year.”

Kinder clearly understands how divisive an issue this is and how difficult it is to curry unanimous Republican favor. Hence, the ballot initiative. However, a similar approach failed in 1978 by a large majority and the state GOP should be weary of losing seats in the House and Senate before the next Governor’s race in 2016. 

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