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After rejection by Missouri voters, Republican resurfaces right-to-work legislation

Union members work to turn out votes in Missouri U.S. Senate race

Local union members have been canvassing across the area ahead of Tuesday's midterm election. In the race for U.S. Senate in Missouri, union voters – once a reliable democratic bloc – could be an important group to energize.
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Local union members have been canvassing across the area ahead of Tuesday's midterm election. In the race for U.S. Senate in Missouri, union voters – once a reliable democratic bloc – could be an important group to energize.

Four months after an overwhelming “no” from voters, a newly-elected Republican state senator is pushing legislation to once again make Missouri a right-to-work state.

Incoming State Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, pre-filed a bill this week that would bar unions from requiring workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Workers can already opt out of full union membership and pay only for the cost of collective bargaining with an employer. But under right-to-work, they can receive union representation at no cost.

After years of failed attempts, Republicans rejoiced in February 2017 when former Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation making Missouri the country’s 28th right-to-work state.

But the celebration was short-lived once labor collected enough signatures to successfully challenge the measure on the August ballot. More than 67 percent of voters sided against right-to-work.

While the GOP dominates both legislative chambers and holds the governor’s office, it’s uncertain whether Republican lawmakers will line up behind the new legislation after such a recent rejection at the ballot box.

“Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch,” Burlison, a former state representative, said in a text message. “In a Constitutional Republic there are certain rights which should never be taken away, not even by a 64% vote. Among these is the right of association or the right to join a union and in this case not to join a union.”

Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said that the GOP was flouting a clear mandate from voters.

They’re throwing dirt on the face of their constituents and not respecting the wishes of the people of Missouri,” said Louis.

The Star’s Allison Kite contributed to this report.

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