Republican lawmakers intensely focused on passing Right to Work legislation took a major step toward the finish line Thursday.
The state Senate gave final approval of a proposal the House passed a week earlier, after adding a grandfather clause to protect existing contracts. Republican Senator Dan Brown says the revision should be part of the final bill sent to the governor.
“I think that was a good move” said Brown. “(We’ve got) some protection for contracts that are in place. We’ve got some pretty strong wording in that grandfathering clause.”
Having sponsored the Senate version of the Right to Work legislation, Brown indicated during a Thursday press conference that the chamber might be resistant to a House move to strip the grandfather provision.
Republicans have been trying to make Missouri a Right to Work state for over a decade. After repeatedly being blocked by two term Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, the legislation is now being embraced by GOP Governor Eric Greitens.
Brown defended Right to Work laws as a benefit to both workers and unions, claiming unions have to pay more attention to employees under Right to Work conditions.
“The unions become much more amenable to (workers’) concerns, and they’re working harder for them, and people choose to be in that membership or brotherhood.”
Right to work laws allow employees to opt out of joining unions. Democratic Senate Floor Leader Gina Walsh, who also presides over one of the state’s biggest unions, says the laws lead to lower wages.
“The fact is out there, when my wage as a union worker goes down, so does your wage as a non-union worker go down” said Walsh. “I have worked side by side with non-union people. They loved being on the prevailing wage jobs I’ve been on. Their income went up.”
Walsh is president of the Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO.
When a reporter noted that the three west coast states, which don’t have Right to Work, are exploding in population while Missouri is shrinking, Republican Senator Brown said there’s hope that Right to Work conditions will help stabilize and even expand the state’s population.
The House will now review change the Senate made to the proposal. It’s expected to get attention in the lower chamber as early as next week.
Republicans also have their sights set on repealing the state’s prevailing wage law this session. Prevailing wage sets a minimum pay rate for workers on public works construction projects. The rate differs by county and types of work.