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Focus on 'right to work' gets more intense as legislators consider override attempt

A new TV ad calls for legislators to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of "right-to-work" legislation.
Screenshot | Americans for Prosperity ad

After a brief hiatus, both sides in the battle over “right to work” are back with a vengeance as they gear up for the Missouri General Assembly’s veto session in just over two weeks.

The dueling campaigns may be aimed, in part, at influencing Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Cape Girardeau. A spokesman said the speaker has yet to decide whether to bring up the “right to work” bill, which was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon earlier this summer.
To override the governor, backers need to sway at least 18 Republicans in the state House to switch their opposing votes. The state Senate needs only a couple Republicans to change their minds.

The Missouri arm of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative free-market group, has announced a new TV-ad campaign launching Thursday throughout the state. The group, which is tied to the Koch brothers, has been among the most outspoken supporters of “right to work,” which would bar unions and employers from requiring all workers to pay dues or fees if a majority vote to join a union.

Rachel Payton, the Missouri group’s deputy state director, said in a statement, “ ‘Right to work’ is vital to Missouri's future successes. This legislation is proven to create more high-paying jobs and boost overall economic health in the 25 states that already embrace this great idea…

“You can expect to encounter our TV and radio presence all the way up until the legislature votes on Sept. 16,” she continued. “Our organization has knocked over 70,000 doors, made over 250,000 phone calls, and has had thousands upon thousands sign our petition in favor of this policy.”

Meanwhile, labor groups are countering with their own efforts to block an override. Unions say “right to work’’ actually drives down wages, promotes economic disparity between the wealthy and everyone else, and improperly injects government in the labor-employer relationship.

David Cook, president of the labor coalition called “Preserve Middle-Class Missouri,” said his group has been running TV or radio ads most of the summer. It currently is airing several spots.

“We’ve been up almost non-stop, in some capacity,’’ he said. At least two other union organizations also have been running ads in opposition to “right to work.”

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.