JEFFERSON CITY — In a clear signal it’s taking seriously a Republican promise to push through a right-to-work law, Missouri’s largest labor union hired a former GOP House leader to lead its opposition.
By JASON HANCOCK
The Star’s Jefferson City correspondent
Steve Tilley, a southeast Missouri Republican who served nearly two years as House speaker before stepping down early to become a lobbyist and political consultant, has been hired by the AFL-CIO to help stave off legislation that would prohibit the payment of fees for union representation as a condition of employment.
During his time as speaker, and as House majority leader before that, right to work was never high on Tilley’s list of priorities. He told Eli Yokley of PoliticMO that his former legislative colleagues should focus their efforts elsewhere.
“There are so many things we can do for this state to make it a better place to work and live that both labor and business can agree on,” he said. “There is no reason to start that discussion with the most divisive issue possible.”
In addition to Tilley, the AFL-CIO also hired influential Jefferson City lobbyist John Bardgett to oppose right to work.
Right to work was the first bill to get a hearing this legislative session, and House Speaker Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican, has said he is determined to finally pass it this year.
The bill is seen as likely to pass in the House. It’s less certain whether enough support exists in the Senate to overcome an inevitable filibuster by Democrats.
Rep. Eric Burlison, a Springfield Republican sponsoring the legislation, welcomed Tilley to the debate but questioned how much impact his hiring will have.
“This is an issue where few people are still making up their minds,” he said. “I’m not sure how many opinions he’s going to change, but he does bring a lot of expertise to the debate.”
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