Republicans and Democrats look ahead to the big issues they think will dominate the next four months of their legislative work.  One issue emerges on the first day as a guaranteed flash point:  Right to Work.  

Republicans increasingly have been pushing the idea that Missouri is losing manufacturing jobs, or at least not attracting new ones, because it is not a right to work state.  Senate leader Robe Mayer, a Dexter Republican, says unemployment is lower in the 22 right to work states than it is in Missouri.  He says six of eight neighboring states are right to work states.

                                       Mayer :22 mp3

That gets Democrats’ backs up.  The party’s floor leader, Victor Callahan of Independence says Right to Work is not the kind of economic development effort the state needs.

                                       Callahan :07 mp3   

But Mayer says Missouri is not keeping up with Right to work states in job creation.

                             Mayer :33 mp3

Major Missouri business groups want the legislature to approve six pro-business laws this year.   Missing from the business shopping list is a Right to Work law. That doesn’t phase Mayer, whose own agenda includes some of the six issues the business groups favor—PLUS Right to Work.

                                       mayer :31 mp3

Callahan thinks that the failure of the business groups to list the issue among their six priorities says something about the lack of need for a Right to work law.

                                  callahan :25 mp3

The bottom line for Mayer is that Right to Work states grow faster economically than union states.

                              Mayer :18 mp3

Senator Tim Green of Spanish Lake, a Democrat, argues, however, that Mayer is leaving out some important information about the growth of manufacturing jobs in Right to Work states—that those states are offering hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-financed incentives to get those factories.

                             Green :33 mp3

Right to Work went to a statewide vote in 1978 and was badly defeated.  Since then, however, a lot of manufacturing and, therefore, labor jobs have been lost.  Federal studies indicate only about nine percent of Missouri workers are union members now.

Green says it’s time to quit blaming organized labor “and start being more productive in understanding what businesses need.”   Green says blaming the nine percent of unionized workers for the state’s economic development problems is “a ludicrous argument.”  

The first bill introduced in the senate for this session is a proposed Right to Work law.