by John Sadler Columbia Missourian

Surrounded by roughly 100 spectators, including many Republican members of the state House and Senate, Gov. Eric Greitens signed the bill that will make Missouri the 28th “right-to-work” state.

“Today represents a great day for the people of Missouri and especially families that need jobs,” Greitens said.

The official signing of the bill came after he had made ceremonial signings in stops around the state, including in an abandoned warehouse in Springfield.

“Right-to-work” laws remove mandatory union fees, a long-term goal for state Republicans, who faced an impasse with former Gov. Jay Nixon. Nixon, a Democrat, stonewalled previous attempts to pass “right-to-work” into law. While Republicans have a super-majority, some members oppose the legislation, and they couldn’t override a Nixon veto.

Once Greitens was elected, the lawmakers seized the opportunity. Proponents of the law such as Greitens say it will bring jobs into the state, while opponents argue it will weaken unions and lower wages. After making brief comments and signing the bill, he took no questions. The law will take effect Aug. 28.

The bill will grandfather in previous union contracts, allowing them to remain in place until they are changed or cancelled. Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, supported the bill. He says he believes it will bring economic growth without hurting the unions.

“I think it’s a historic day,” he said. He said the bill would have the effect of forcing unions to reinvent themselves. “I think there’s still a place for unions in the 21st century, I just think it may be a little different than it was in the 1940s,” Rowden said. “I think all this does is just make sure that they have to prove to their members the value, and it doesn’t force them to join.”

The fight over the law might not be over, however. Mike Louis, the president of the Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO, has filed a petition for a referendum on “right-to-work.” Rod Chapel, the president of the Missouri NAACP, supports the efforts of the AFL-CIO. If enough signatures are collected, the issue could go to a statewide ballot in 2018.