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'Right To Work' Hits Snag In Missouri House, Not Enough Votes To Move To Senate

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

'Right-to-work' legislation in the Missouri House hit a snag Wednesday.

Although House Bill 1770 received first-round approval, it fell four votes short of the minimum 82 votes required to advance to the Missouri Senate.  The measure would mandate that a worker cannot be forced to join a labor organization, or be forbidden from joining, as a condition of employment.  Minority Floor Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, spoke against the bill on the House floor.

"It's a fact that workers in 'right-to-work-for-less' states make an average of $4,600 less per household per year and receive lower benefits than workers in states without this anti-worker law," Hummel said.  "Is there anyone in this chamber that can stand here on this floor and say, 'I was elected to make sure that my constituents got a pay cut?'"

Nineteen Republicans joined the entire Democratic House caucus in voting "no."  Unless GOP leaders can convince four lawmakers to change their votes, it's not likely that the bill would be brought back up again. But that hasn't deterred the sponsor, state Rep. EricBurlison, R-Springfield.  He says he has enough time in this year's session to persuade four lawmakers to change their votes.

"I'm an optimist, and I think that (the votes) are there," Burlison said.  "We need to let the dust settle a little bit on this issue, let everyone see that the world didn't come to a stop because we perfected this bill."

But even if GOP leaders can't come up with the four votes needed to send the bill to the Senate, Burlison says it's still a moral victory.

"It's never happened, (a 'right-to-work') bill has never gotten to this place in Missouri history," Burlison said.  "For me, getting at least to this point is a tremendous victory."

Passing a right-to-work bill has been a top priority this session for House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, but Wednesday's vote shows that Republicans as a whole are not on board with the idea.  One of the strongest critics of  "right to work" is fellow Republican Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles, who also chairs the House Committee on Economic Development.  She spoke against the bill at a recent labor union rally at the State Capitol.

"Working with labor is good business practice," Zerr said before about 1,000 union members on March 26th.  "Companies that work well with labor are surviving and prospering companies; and take heart, because there's more and more of us on the Republican side that are realizing that it's important to work with labor and (that) labor is not the enemy."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.