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Politically Speaking: Rep. Doug Beck on bid to repeal right-to-work law in Missouri

Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Rep. Doug Beck

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies talk with state Rep. Doug Beck about the effort to repeal Missouri’s recently passed right-to-work law.

The Affton Democrat has worked as a union pipefitter for more than 30 years. He was first elected in 2016 to represent a south St. Louis County-based district where voters favored the GOP nominee for president,  Donald Trump. Beck is also a member of the Affton School Board.

Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, signed legislation in February instituting a right-to-work law, which bars unions and employers from requiring workers to pay union dues. In response, unions across the state began gathering signatures to have voters decide next year whether the law should stand.

Ultimately, right-to-work opponents ended up collecting more than 310,000 signatures – more than enough to prevent the law from going into effect. Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft should announce in a few weeks whether voters will have a say over the issue.

Proponents of the law say it will make Missouri more attractive for businesses. But detractors, such as Beck, say the policy’s real goal is to weaken labor unions – and lower wages for workers.

Here's what Beck had to say during the show:

Union members and supporters gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall this month to notarize and count petition signatures to block Missouri's new right-to-work law. (Aug. 8, 2017)
Credit File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Union members and supporters gathered at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall this month to notarize and count petition signatures seeking to block Missouri's new right-to-work law.

  • Beck expects right-to-work opponents and proponents will spend millions of dollars on next year’s referendum. “I’m sure we’re going to have to put money in, absolutely. We’re fighting for our lives and the lives of all the Missouri workers,” Beck said. “That’s what it’s going to be. It’s not like this is my choice. It’s not like this is labor’s choice to have this fight.”
  • He isn’t sure if organized labor’s focus on reversing the law will affect other ballot initiatives that depend on union money, such bids to increase the minimum wage or overhaul the state’s ethics laws. Beck expects proponents of both of those measures to be creative. “It’s going to be more people power than anything else,” he said. “It’s going to be going door-to-door and explaining what things are – and that’s what we’re going to have to do as labor. And that’s what we’re good at.”
  • Beck doesn’t agree that Missouri voters ratified the right-to-work law last year when they elected Greitens as governor. “People voted for change, they didn’t vote for one issue,” he said.
  • Like other House Democrats, Beck hopes that legislators override Greitens’ veto of a plan reversing cuts to in-home care services for about 8,000 low-income elderly and the disabled. Greitens called the plan a “gimmick” and a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Doug Beck on Twitter: @dougbeck562

Music: “Fly on the Windscreen” and “Stripped” by Depeche Mode, and “Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.