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MO GOP Hedges on “Right-to-Work” but Labor’s Message is Clear: We Support Who Supports Us

MO AFL-CIO Pres. Mike Louis puts policy positions over party affiliation

MO AFL-CIO Pres. Mike Louis puts policy positions over party affiliation

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A recent interview with Missouri Speaker of the House Todd Richardson leaves the question of “Right-to-Work” somewhat unanswered for 2016.  Last year, “Right-to-Work” failed to gain enough support to override a veto from Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.  Despite a GOP super majority in both chambers, the divisive nature of “Right-to-Work” was evident in the override attempt as the 23 House Republicans who initially voted against the bill doubled down during the override vote.

In the interview with the St. Louis Dispatch, Richardson waxes non-committal:

“I think you’re going to see debate on labor reform. Whether that includes right to work or not I think is an open question at this point.  I don’t intend to have another Pyrrhic discussion on right to work.”

Further complicating the issue is the 2016 election, in which many GOP candidates for governor are taking a hardline in favor of the anti-union legislation.  Among them is Rep. Eric Burlison, who told the Dispatch:

“To me, the problem didn’t go away.  There are employees in this state who are forced into a situation that is not beneficial to them. This bill will let those employees do what’s in their best interest.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe stated that he would be willing to put “Right-to-Work” up for a vote if it could pass the House, but appeared less optimistic than others about this prospect:

“In an election year, it’s probably a tougher issue.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a less important issue. If that comes over (to the Senate), that’s an issue you can’t just put in a desk drawer.”

The Missouri AFL-CIO has been rightfully vocal on the issue, stating that it would gladly campaign for any Republican who votes against “Right-to-Work.” Mike Louis, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said in an interview: “It’s all about who is labor-friendly and who cares about the workers.”

Bart Velasco, who heads the Jefferson County Labor Club, echoed Louis’ sentiments. He promised that his group would fight for any politician who is against “Right-to-Work,” no matter their party affiliation. Velasco said he recognizes that some Republicans stuck their necks out in order to protect workers in Missouri.

“We will put boots on the ground to make sure these people win their races. They endured an awful lot of heat in their party.”

House Speaker Richardson’s one foot in, one foot out language is eerily similar to that of Republican leaders in Michigan and Wisconsin during the leadup to their respective passage of “Right-to-Work.”  His desire to keep the “Right-to-Work” door open, through misleading statements about the benefits of the law, is apparent:

I think you’ll see labor reform be part of the agenda, that’s because we want to see an environment where we can compete for manufacturing jobs with the states around us.

I wouldn’t say it’s not a high priority. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that we want to have an approach that allows us to get something into law.”

Missouri workers will need to rely on the same pro-worker Republicans that have staved this bill off time and again in the state. Those are the same folks Richardson and his cohorts are most focused on:

“Obviously we know kind of where that issue stood back in September.  I think we’ll continue to see progress on that issue. But whether we can get to a vote count that includes enough members to override a governor’s veto is an open question.”


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