A term thrown around during debate on how union elections should be conducted comes under scrutiny in the House.

It becomes a contentious issue on the House floor: a resolution calling on Missourians to decide whether all union elections should be conducted by secret ballot; contentious, because some members take personally the tag “union boss”.

“We never got to the point of what defines that union boss,” Rep. Joseph Fallert, Jr. told Rep. Mike Cierpoit (R-Lee’s Summit) during House floor debate.

Cierpoit took a stab at a definition.

“It’s hard to say,” Cierpoit replied to Fallert. “I guess, what I would use as a barometer is, it’s kind of the redneck jokes. If you don’t think guys should have the right to vote privately, you might be a union boss.”

The humor isn’t shared by some opposing the bill. Fallert rejected the notion that union officials fear a secret ballot. He said they should be respected for working their way up the ranks to take on a leadership role.

“That’s just always kind of bothered me,” Fallert responded. “Somebody gets involved in their workplace, gets involved in the process and works their way up to a position of some respect and then we got to have a slang term so that we can lump them all together. I don’t like the term.”

Adding to the contentious nature of the debate is that a few lawmakers are union officials, offended by the term to union boss.

The House has approved HJR 6 100-to-57. It now moves to the Senate. If approved by the legislature, it would go to the ballot to be decided by Missouri voters.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:15 MP3]