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Tensions high in final days of lobbying over 'right to work'

Gov. Jay Nixon was greeted by an enthusiastic and supportive crowd Thursday for his announced veto of 'right to work' at the Local 36 Sheet Metal Workers training building.
File photo by Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio

With Wednesday’s veto session looming, supporters and opponents of “right to work’’ are launching last-minute appeals – deploying ads, polls, rallies and money to make their case.

Backers of what's seen as an anti-labor measure, in particular, are gearing up on several fronts as they seek the necessary votes to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of the bill. It would bar employers and unions from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees.

The Missouri Republican Party’s leaders passed a resolution over the weekend endorsing the measure, while the Missouri chapter of Americans for Prosperity announced poll results that it says show that Missouri voters also backed the bill.

Joplin businessman David Humphreys, a right-to-work backer, has donated $500,000 to a new political action committee that critics say may seek to defeat right-to-work opponents next year, especially the Republicans. 

So far, the campaign committee – called the Committee for Accountable Government in Missouri -- is not commenting.

Hundreds of labor members and their allies – who oppose right to work -- held a rally Saturday in Jefferson County, where some like-minded Republican lawmakers live. 

The Missouri Democratic Party also is conducting a social-media campaign -- especially on Twitter -- highlighting its opposition to right to work.

On Monday, unions may have gotten a boost from the Missouri attorney general’s office, which issued an opinion declaring that recent legislative vacancies won’t reduce the minimum number of votes needed in the House and Senate to override the governor. 

The House will need 109 votes, and the Senate will require 23.  Both sides expect a close vote, although many supporters privately acknowledge that they fear they don't have the numbers in the House.

The opinion was written by state Solicitor General Jim Layton, who cited various legal precedents.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster opposes right to work, attended Saturday’s rally and collected a $10,000 campaign check Monday from the St. Louis local of the Sheet Metal Workers.

Koster is a Democrat running for governor in 2016. Most of the GOP contenders have declared their support for right to work and have promised to sign such a measure into law if elected to office, and if Nixon's veto this session stands.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.