Local Columnists

Steve Kraske: Peter Kinder was against right-to-work before he was for it


Peter Kinder, candidate for Missouri governor, has been on a rampage when it comes to right-to-work laws that give some workers the option to not join unions.

He’s for those laws, and he’s battling anybody who disagrees.

Kinder’s feuded with a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sheila Solon of Blue Springs, over whether GOP opponents of right-to-work were “joyously yukking it up” after the bill was defeated a few days ago.

He’s threatening Solon and 19 other Republican opponents of right-to-work with primary opposition next year. A few weeks ago, he was out front urging lawmakers to overturn Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

“The override is necessary both economically and politically,” Kinder and other GOP candidates for governor wrote in a group letter.

In July, Kinder was challenging Nixon to debate him publicly — anytime, anywhere.

In April, he insisted the 2015 session would be a failure if lawmakers didn’t pass the law. Back in 2013, he was advocating putting the issue before voters to get around Nixon.

What a far, far cry that is from the Peter Kinder of 2005. Brace yourselves, folks. Political whiplash ahead.

That year, Missouri Republicans were pushing hard for right-to-work. The GOP controlled the General Assembly. The governor, Matt Blunt, was a Republican. So was the lieutenant governor — a man named Peter Kinder.

But bill proponents had a big problem. Blunt opposed the idea. He said there were other ways to create good-paying jobs besides undermining unions.

And Kinder, his sidekick, was right there beside him.

“While Governor Blunt and I are in office, there will be no right-to-work law...” he said in a rousing speech to the Carpenters District. A newspaper reported that his comments were greeted by thunderous applause.

Here’s how he explains all this today:

“I was lieutenant governor serving under a Republican governor,” Kinder said this week. “I saluted and fell into line behind him.”

Since then, he’s been persuaded by what he’s seen, such as big job growth in states like Indiana that adopted right-to-work in 2012. He’s watched four auto assembly plants shrink to one in the St. Louis area.

“The destruction of union jobs proceeds” under current Missouri law, he said.

“Valid question,” Kinder said of my phone call. Now, he added, “I’ve answered it.”

Still, for a man on a rampage, he’s a long way from where he once was.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.