Missouri right to work laws heard by house committee at state capitol

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KPLR) – Five bills aimed at making Missouri a right to work state took center stage in a house committee Tuesday afternoon in Jefferson City.

"You still get to be part of the union, unions still exist. Of all of the 27 states that have right to work, unions still exist" said Representative Holly Rehder, the sponsor of House Bill 91.   "The change is simple; the union will now have to provide a service worth paying for their members to want it.  They are no longer guaranteed members regardless of service of value so they will have to work for them, just as the union member works for their paycheck".

Supporters of right to work legislation point to the economic benefits the laws would bring the state.  They also say it promotes individual freedoms by allowing employees and businesses the choice of paying into representation or not.

"I don't think that again we can avoid this issue any longer if we want to compete for these good jobs" said State Treasurer Eric Schmitt.  "I think having more of those good jobs for the men and women- many who are friends and testifying here today- we need to put ourselves in the best position to compete long term" he said.

Schmitt previously served as the Chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee and says right to work is long overdue for Missouri.

"I have sat in countless rooms with site selectors and I can tell you without exception that being a right to work state is at the very top of the list" he said.  "The fact of the matter is that it's on the list and we are in a fierce competition with other states for jobs" he said.

People who oppose the law says it promotes government overreach and impedes on the rights of businesses and employees.

"I don't want you interfering between an employer and an employee" said Mike Louis, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO.  "Right now they've got the right to negotiate it or not.  You're taking away their right to negotiate it if they want to.  Sounds like bull" he said.

"We're going to do the best job we can to overcome this legislation which in our minds and our opinions is not good for this state, but we know it's coming" said former State Representative Shannon Cooper.  "We're not going to pick up our ball and walk away mad.  We're going to continue walking these halls and we're going to continue to advocate for the things that are important to us" he said.

No vote came out of Tuesday's hearing.  Making Missouri a right to work state is a big priority for Governor Eric Greitens. Now with a republican controlled legislature, many lawmakers are confident the legislation will pass this session.