by Phill Brooks
Proponents and opponents spent hours Monday, Jan. 13, arguing before the House Workforce Development Committee legislation to give workers the right to refuse to join unions.
The measure, termed “right to work” by supporters, would prohibit any contract that requires a worker to join a union or pay union fees to obtain or continue employment. Backers of the bill argued it would make Missouri more competitive in attracting businesses from other states that prohibit forced-union membership.
But St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay told the committee that other factors are more significant in decisions by business in choosing a location.
“Competitive businesses don’t go to the cheapest places,” Slay said. “They go to the best places — the places with skilled labor, quality of life, world-class universities, a good transportation system.”
On the other side, supporters portrayed the bill as one providing choice and more freedom for workers.
“I believe that we must uphold their right to join a union, join a competing union or not join one at all,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield.
For the last several years, divisions within Missouri’s business community over “right to work” have contributed to legislative inaction on the proposal.