by Marie French

An effort to let workers refuse to join or pay dues to a union appears to have stalled once again. The chance of what supporters call “right to work” getting to the floor in either chamber appears slim.

The spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said Wednesday, May 1, that right-to-work legislation would not be passed this session. Earlier in the year, at a mid-session press conference, Dempsey himself said many senators were passionate about the issue because they believe Missouri not being a right-to-work state puts Missouri at a competitive disadvantage.

“But they also recognize that we have a Democratic governor who has said he’ll veto the legislation and that we simply lack the votes to move it forward over his objections,” Dempsey said.

The right-to-work bills would prohibit making joining a union a requirement for employment. This would mean an employee with a union employer could refuse to pay union dues.

Opponents argue such measures are intended to destroy labor unions because workers could get the benefit of collective bargaining by the union without paying dues. Supporters counter that employees should have the freedom to join a union or not if they choose and that right-to-work states are more attractive to businesses.

One obstacle for right-to-work legislation has been the lack of unified support for the efforts in the business community. Some statewide business groups in Missouri have endorsed the legislation, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

The Associated General Contractors of St. Louis, however, opposes the legislation. President Len Toenjes said the passage of such legislation would put members’ current union contracts at risk and could cost them millions and even force them to shut down.

“Many of our contractors have existing multi-year labor agreements,” Toenjes said. “In the short term there will be potential for a lot of out-of-state competition coming in. The potential would be to harm businesses that have been in St. Louis for decades.”

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said he doesn’t think the Senate is interested in moving forward with right to work.

“We’ll be moving a lot faster and earlier next year, and hopefully the Senate will show some interest,” Jones said. As for debating right to work on the floor of the House this year, Jones said “we’ll have to wait and see.”