The issue of Right to Work continues to play a major role in Missouri’s governor race. Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Chris Koster couldn’t be farther apart on the issue.
Right to Work laws allow employees to operate without paying dues, which are normally required for union supported jobs.
Koster thinks such legislation, which would diminish the power of unions, will harm workers by lowering their wages. “There are a lot of wealthy people in this state who come up to me and say ‘You know, the state would be a better place if folks who make money on an hourly wage made less money’” said Koster. “When I go a woman who’s stocking the shelves at my grocery store and say ‘This is what these wealthy folks are saying. How would you like us to lower your salary from $11.00 to $9.00’, what she says to me is that it’s pretty hard to put food on her kids table at $11.00. She thinks it’ll be harder at $9.00. And what it means is that she’s got to work an extra seven weeks a year just to stay even.”
Koster claims he was strongly opposed to Right to Work even he changed his party affiliation seven years ago. “I have been against Right to Work for 22 years. I was a Republican leader and was against Right to Work. I stood up on the floor as a Republican against Right to Work. And I’m still against Right to Work.”
Greitens is solidly behind such legislation. In a statement issued yesterday, campaign spokesperson Austin Chambers said “Right-to-Work gives workers freedom and makes Missouri more competitive.”
And Republican State Senator Bob Onder, who’s endorsed Greitens, claims economic numbers favor Missouri becoming a Right to Work state. “In the decade that ended in 2013, job growth has been 8.6 percent in Freedom to Work states, and only 3.7 percent in states that do not have Right to Work.” (Onder uses the term “Right to Work” and “Freedom to Work” interchangeably.)
He contends workers flourish in states with Right to Work laws. “There is no question that job growth has been dramatically faster, and that wage growth, as well, has been greater in Freedom to Work states.”
Jake Rosenfeld of Washington University in St. Louis, who’s studied the issue at length, disagrees. He says Right to Work in Missouri “will leave low and middle income workers more prey to management whims because they’ll find it harder to organize”.
Big money on both sides of the issue is streaming into the governor’s race. David Humphries, a prominent southeast Missouri business owner who supports Right to Work, donated $500,000 to the Greitens campaign this week. Koster’s received a number of large contributions from unions, including the United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers. According to the site Follow the Money, he’s received over $7 million from labor interests in the current campaign.