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Nixon announces drop in workers compensation rates

Gov. Jay Nixon announced drops in workers comp rates in at the Carpenters Training Center in Affton on Thursday.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Jay Nixon announced drops in workers comp rates in at the Carpenters Training Center in Affton on Thursday.

Missouri businesses can expect to pay less for workers compensation insurance.

During a visit to Nelson Mulligan Carpenters Training Center in Affton on Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that a variety of Missouri businesses would see a drop in their workers comp rates. Companies pay for this insurance to avoid paying big costs when a worker gets hurt.

Nixon’s office said that the National Council on Compensation Insurance was proposing an overall decrease of about 2.4 percent. The highest decrease will come in the contracting industry, which Nixon attributed to investments in worker safety.

Missouri Department of Labor director Ryan McKenna was on hand in Affton on Thursday.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Department of Labor director Ryan McKenna was on hand in Affton on Thursday.

“A skilled workforce is a safe workforce,” Nixon said. “Fewer injuries mean healthier workers, fewer missed days and bigger paychecks for Missouri families. And when you don’t have as many workers getting injured on the job, businesses don’t pay as much for workers compensation insurance.”

Nixon said the types of rate drops proposed by the NCCI were “huge numbers.”

“Every dollar Missouri businesses don’t have to spend on workers compensation is a dollar that can go toward growing their businesses and creating jobs,” Nixon said. “It also gives Missouri businesses a real competitive advantage over businesses in several of our surrounding states.”

For Missouri Department of Labor director Ryan McKenna, fewer worker injuries also have an impact on morale. He noted that when he worked for Fred Weber, an ironworker died after falling off a bridge. That type of episode has “a significant impact on a person – it did for me.

“It makes you understand how important safety is on the job,” said McKenna, who also served in the Missouri House and Missouri Senate. “And it makes that a goal to make sure that men and women get home safe at the end of a hard day’s work.”

Nixon chides “right to work”

Nixon used his visit to the Carpenters’ Training Center to slam “right to work,” which would bar unions and employers from requiring workers to pay dues when a majority votes to organize.

The governor vetoed that legislation earlier this year. But lawmakers may take up the bill when they come back for veto session on Sept. 16.

Yet as Nixon alluded to in his remarks, there weren’t enough votes on the measure during regular session in the House or the Senate to override the governor’s objection. Only 92 House members voted for it -- and 109 are needed for a veto override.

“We have a strong, bipartisan coalition in the legislature that continues to oppose this divisive and dangerous measure,” Nixon said. “This isn’t about partisanship. Republican and Democrats are standing with workers and listening to their constituents.”

But some like Missouri Alliance for Freedom’s Ryan Johnson are trying to flip Republican votes on the issue. His group raised questionsabout whether some labor unions have connections to Planned Parenthood, a charge that was swiftly denied by the St. Louis Construction and Building Trades Council.

While he said it’s not a sure that right to work backers will prevail next week, he says it’s only matter of a time before the policy becomes law – especially if voters elect a GOP governor next year.

“I think that the public debate has been really healthy no matter what the outcome is,” Johnson said. “Of course we want to flip the votes of the no members and get to 109. But as everybody knows and has known from the start, getting from 92 to 109 is very difficult.”

“I’ve always said that I’m optimistic, but I’m also realistic,” he added. “So even if this doesn’t happen on Sept. 16, they take the vote, they fall short – I will still maintain my position. Right to work in Missouri? It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.