Missouri governor vetoes 'right to work' bill; here's why

Missouri governor vetoes 'right to work' bill; here's why
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed aa "right-to-work bill," sending Republican lawmakers scrambling to gather enough votes to override him. (Associated Press)

Missouri did not become the country's 26th "right to work" state Wednesday: Gov. Jay Nixon issued a veto, setting up a clash with the state's Republican-led Legislature.

The bill would have made it a misdemeanor for anyone to be required to become a union member, or to pay dues to a labor organization, as a condition of employment. Nixon, a Democrat, was expected to block the legislation, leaving state lawmakers to round up enough votes to override him.


In his four-page veto notice, Nixon said the bill would neuter unions, lead to lower wages and ultimately produce a less skilled state workforce by denying people the training opportunities provided by labor organizations.

"The 'right to work' moniker is a misnomer," Nixon wrote. "'Right to work' laws create a less skilled workforce, drive down wages and directly interfere with a business owner's right to contract."

The bill, Nixon wrote, is "wrong for workers, wrong for business owners and wrong for Missouri."

Missouri state Rep. Eric Burlison, the bill's chief sponsor in the House, blasted Nixon for ignoring data from other right-to-work states that show the legislation promotes job growth.

"It is extremely disappointing to me that the governor has again turned his back on the people of this state by vetoing a pro-worker bill that would create the kind of family-supporting jobs we need to accelerate our economic engine," he said in a statement.

The nation's 25 right-to-work states are spread largely through the Midwest and Southeast, but also include Republican-controlled western states such as Utah and Arizona.

Proponents of such laws believe employees should not be compelled to join a union or pay dues to labor organizations.

Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Committee, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year that several states have enacted such legislation in recent years because they want to promote job growth.

Opponents, such as Nixon, tend to argue that right-to-work legislation has led to lower wages in the states where such laws have been passed. The laws have been staunchly opposed by organized labor, as they eliminate the provision that any worker in a unionized shop should be a member or pay a fee to the union for services including bargaining for better wages and working conditions.

They often say that all workers benefit from a union contract, so employees in union jobs should be required to pay dues.

Arkansas became the first right-to-work state in 1944, quickly followed over the next few years by Florida, Arizona, Nebraska, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.

In March, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a presidential hopeful and longtime opponent of organized labor practices, signed legislation making his state the nation's 25th right-to-work state.

Times staff writer Michael Muskal contributed to this report.

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