Legislation barring unions from charging any fees to nonunion members cleared the Missouri House on Thursday, although its future remains in doubt.
In a 91-64 vote, the “right to work” bill was sent to the Missouri Senate, where it could ultimately face a filibuster by opponents. Even if it does win Senate approval, Gov. Jay Nixon is expected to veto it.
It takes 109 votes in the House to override a veto.
Despite the long odds, GOP legislative leaders celebrated the historic vote in the House.
“I am proud to see the Missouri House make history, as we have for the first time moved a right-to-work bill out of this chamber and on to the Senate,” said House Speaker John Diehl, a St. Louis County Republican. “I am committed to working with my colleagues on the other side of the building to make Missouri the nation’s 25th right-to-work state this year.”
Right to work is the most contentious of disputes between management and unions played out in state legislatures across the nation. Supporters argue that it would encourage businesses to move to Missouri or expand in the state, which would drive economic growth.
But opponents counter that unions must represent everyone in a workplace, whether they are members of the union or not. Allowing some to receive those benefits without contributing to them isn’t fair, they say.
“Missouri companies like Ford, General Motors, Boeing and Anheuser-Busch are strong and successful in large part due to the mutually beneficial relationships they enjoy with their labor unions,” said House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, a St. Louis Democrat. “Government shouldn’t interfere with how these companies choose to conduct business.”
A 2012 review by the Congressional Research Service found that unionization rates are lower, job growth higher and wages lower in right-to-work states. But the review said it was impossible to determine that those outcomes were directly tied to right-to-work laws instead of other policies or preferences.
Voting against the legislation were 40 Democrats, 23 Republicans and independent Keith English. All votes in favor were from Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican, said Thursday afternoon he was disappointed that House Republicans were unable to muster the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.