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 Right to Work (for Less)

Media Coverage of the Event:

  • Pre-Event Coverage in the Joplin Globe and on the Turner Report
  • Coverage of the Event in the Joplin Globe and on 3 of our 4 Local Networks
  • Debate ramping up ahead of vote on right-to-work veto

Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2015 9:42 pm

BY ELI YOKLEY eyokley@joplinglobe.com

For opponents of an anti-union bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year known as “right-to-work,” a conservative stronghold like Southwest Missouri would not seem like the easiest place to start a fight to defend Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the measure ahead of a September vote.

But on Wednesday night, just a few miles from the district of Rep. Bill Lant, the chairman of the committee that passed right-to-work, and just an hour down the highway from the home of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eric Burlison, there they were — Democrats and union activists rallying at the IBEW Local 95 Hall in Joplin.

“The message is clear,” said Krista Stark, executive director of the Southwest Missouri Democrats. “Let the veto stand.”

While it never received support from a number of House and Senate Republicans from districts near the state’s urban cores, right-to-work received unanimous support from the Republicans who represent Southwest Missouri. The bill was passed out of a committee chaired by Lant, R-Pineville, who said in a recent interview that he is pushing the effort to override Nixon’s veto.

“I think the fight is worth having,” Lant said, pointing to the case made by Republicans that the bill could improve the state’s business environment. “We’ve got to do something to get Missouri back growing. The easiest, quickest way is right-to-work.” The law allows workers in unionized industries to choose not to join a union and pay dues.   

Lant said a survey of his district at the time revealed to him significant support for the measure and that he has encouraged wary Republicans to survey their districts, too.

At the Wednesday night event, billed as a town hall, about 70 people — from electricians to steelworkers to plumbers to retirees – Stark said Democrats and laborers planned to do some surveying for them. Her goal before September’s veto session is to add to a list of signatures from right-to-work opponents she collected on Wednesday and present them to local legislators to show them that there is opposition to the bill in their own districts.

“We’re going to give them what they asked for. We’re going to survey their members for them,” she said, urging others in attendance to “see if we can change one mind” in the area’s delegation.

Democrats and union members are not the only ones hoping to change some minds. On the same day Democrats were ramping up their efforts in Southwest Missouri, supporters of right-to-work renewed their public effort to override it.

The Missouri chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by business interests, launched a $200,000 statewide television ad campaign  — targeting people online and cable viewers in St. Louis and Kansas City — with the tagline “Right-to-work is right for Missouri.”

Patrick Werner, the Missouri director for Americans for Prosperity, said the bill is about “worker freedom,” not taking away union rights.

“A clear majority of legislators in both chambers came together and passed legislation that would give Missourians more freedom and more choice in their career path,” he said in an email. “It’s time to put politics aside and do the right thing for Missouri.”

Votes required

Right-to-work’s supporters have an uphill fight on their hands as the debate heads into the summer.

Before Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the measure this month, the House approved the bill by a vote of 92-66, short of the 109 votes required to override a veto. In the Senate, it passed 21-13, short of the 23 votes needed to overturn a veto.

We had TV Coverage on Three of our 4 local network channels on the 9 and 10pm. news:

KSN and KODE Local Democrats Hold Rally 9 and 10 pm (6/24)

Fox 14   Called Right to Work 9pm (6/24)