The state House has given initial passage to legislation that is alternately called “paycheck protection” by its supporters and “paycheck deception” by its opponents.
The bill, HB 1617 sponsored by Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), would let workers annually give or deny permission for union dues to be taken out of their paychecks.
Supporters include the Missouri Chamber who says current law, “allows thousands in taxpayers’ dollars to go political campaigns every year unchecked, siphoned off of public employees’ paychecks in the form of union dues.”
Opponents such as the Missouri AFL-CIO called supporters “extremists,” who seek, “to shut hardworking public workers out of the political process – and to take away their voice on the job.”
The legislation was the subject of two hours of contentious debate. In an exchange that drew an admonition from House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), Representative Jeff Roorda (D-Barnhardt) read Rehder a quote from Martin Niemoller dating back to World War II.
Listen to a portion of Roorda’s inquiry of Rehder
Niemoller famously wrote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Roorda read the quote and then asked Rehder, “Who are you coming after next?”
When Roorda was challenged by another Republican for making reference to Nazi Germany, Rooda added, “Lady I never used the word ‘Nazi.’ I hope you don’t think I was comparing you to a 1939-era Nazi German just because you’re doing the same thing that they were.”
Democrats argue the bill is an attempt to limit political involvement by people who are commonly thought to vote for their party.
“We’re being very narrow, and we’re being very precise with this bill,” said Representative Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City). He says it isn’t clear why the bill does not apply to first responders or private corporations. “These are folks that we are silencing and the question is why. The answer is, ‘We don’t like what they’re saying. We don’t like the political speech that their exhibiting.”
Rehder says the bill protects individual workers.
“It gives them the ability to do with their money as they choose,” says Rehder. “This is simply individual freedom.”
The proposal needs another favorable vote to go to the Senate.