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Kinder calls for public debates over right-to-work proposal

Peter Kinder primary election night 2010
Rachel Heidenry | 2010 | St. Louis Beacon

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is proposing that Gov. Jay Nixon and state Attorney General Chris Koster engage in public debates with him in the coming weeks over the issue of right to work.

“He would be willing to do any forum,’’ a Kinder spokesman said. That includes appearing jointly on TV or on radio.

Kinder’s call comes as both sides are expected to gear up in preparation of the General Assembly’s September veto session.

Nixon recently vetoed a right-to-work bill, which would bar employers and unions from requiring all workers to pay dues if a majority voted to join a union. The General Assembly approved the bill for the first time this past session.

The victory margins weren’t large enough to override the governor’s veto, but right-to-work backers are exerting increased pressure to persuade some opposing legislators to change their minds.

Kinder, a Republican, long has been an outspoken supporter of right to work. He and other backers say the restriction would make Missouri more attractive to businesses.

“We are at an economic disadvantage because, unlike six of our neighboring states, we do not have a right to work law," Kinder said. "All too often, jobs that could have gone to Missouri instead wind up going to one of these six other states simply because we lack one law they have – right to work."

"Right to work, at its core, is about fairness," Kinder added. "If a worker in our state does not want to pay union fees, they should not be required to do so just to get or keep a job. Let the unions prove their worth and workers will gladly pay for membership."

Nixon and Koster, both Democrats, agree with labor that a right-to-work law would reduce wages and harm worker safety. Nixon has not responded, as yet, to Kinder’s proposal.

But a campaign spokesman for Koster, who is running for governor, said in a statement, "As usual, Peter Kinder has taken conservatism to an extreme. His views on right to work are well to the right of the majority of Missourians. The protection of Missouri’s workforce will be thoroughly discussed in the months ahead, but today’s invitation appears designed for publicity not policy.”

A labor coalition called “Preserve Middle-Class Missouri" ran TV spots in June blasting right to work. The Missouri arm of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, soon went on TV with ads promoting a right-to-work law.

Both sides are expected to launch new TV or radio spots shortly.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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