by Valerie Verkamp
Will Missouri become the 28th state to have right-to-work provisions?
All indications suggest it will. Last Wednesday, the state senate passed Senate Bill 19, which would make it unlawful to require employees to become a member of a labor organization or obligate them to pay union dues.
The bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is also expected to pass without much hesitation.
The right-to-work legislation makes any person who violates the proposed law punishable of a class C misdemeanor.
Provisions exclude employers and workers of the federal Railway Labor Act, federal employers and employees, as well as any agreement between an employer and labor organization enacted before the proposed law.
“Besides the advantages of increased jobs and economic growth, right-to-work is the single biggest policy that can help protect a worker's freedom to choose whether a union works for them,” wrote Sen. Ron Richards in This Week's Legislative Column. “Organized labor's chief selling point has always been that union representatives are able to negotiate the best possible deal for workers, but time has shown us that is not always the case. Right to Work laws hold unions accountable and encourage them to work hard to represent the best interests of their members. They benefit businesses, employees, the employees' families and even the unions themselves.”
But not everyone agrees that a right-to-work law is necessary in Missouri. Opponents argue that the proposed right-to-work bill will interminably harm the state's job growth.
“In other states, right-to-work has hurt their economy, driven down wages, and stifled job growth,” said Sen. Gina Walsh. “Here in Missouri, we've rejected right-to-work, invested in our workforce, and seen record job growth. Supporters have put forward no credible reason for passing this law other than to drive down wages and appease special interests.”
Sen. Walsh said Missouri's unemployment rate for December dropped to 4.4 percent under former Gov. Nixon, who opposed previous efforts to pass a right-to-work legislation. She also pointed out that the seasonally adjusted employment rate for December 2016 reached a state record high of 2,999,742.
Unions have dramatically shaped the relationship between employers and employees over the past eight decades.
During the industrial period of the 1930's, workers struggled to gain some ground for a living wage, fair hours and safe working conditions. The workers who attempted to unionize received rights to improve their working conditions.
To a large extent, employers were against their employees unionizing, based on the presumption that employers were losing control of their company. Many political leaders also took a strong stance against unions.
Still, despite many setbacks, unions today exist across the country.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 14.6 million workers belonged to a union last year. In the private sector, there were 7.4 million union members and in the public sector there were 7.1 million. The occupations with the highest unionization rates were in education, training, library professionals, and protective services.
A full-time employee who is a union member earned a median weekly salary of $1,004 last year. Union members earned $202 more a week compared to those who did not belong to a union in 2016.