Governor Eric Greitens (R) says Monday’s signing of right-to-work legislation represents a “great victory” for Missourians, especially those looking for work.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signs right-to-work legislation in Jefferson City on February 6, 2017 (Brian Hauswirth photo)

Missouri Democrats and labor unions see it differently.

Greitens, who campaigned for right-to-work, signed the bill Monday in Springfield and in Poplar Bluff, before heading to the State Capitol in Jefferson City, where he was surrounded by dozens of lawmakers from both the Senate and House. All were Republicans, except State Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis (D-Ferguson).

“Today, passing right-to-work sends a very clear message: that the people of Missouri are ready to work and Missouri is open for business,” Greitens said, as lawmakers applauded.

Greitens says right-to-work is a simple measure.

“What right-to-work simply says, that every worker in the state of Missouri has the choice to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join a union,” says Greitens. “And if they choose not to join, they can’t be forced out of their job.”

Right-to-work says that a person cannot be required to join or refrain from joining a labor organization, as a condition of employment.

Greitens says that from 1995-2015, the five fastest states for job growth were all right-to-work states. He says right-to-work will lead to more jobs and higher pay.

Greitens did not take questions from the Capitol Press Corps in Jefferson City.

The House sponsor, State Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) says right-to-work will take effect August 28. Missouri will become the 28th right-to-work state, when the law takes effect.

Rehder predicts union and non-union jobs will increase in Missouri. She cites Indiana and Michigan.

Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield) tells Missourinet that right-to-work will strengthen unions.

“You look across the country at states that have right-to-work and they see increasing union membership, more jobs move there, it gives the members the opportunity and it forces the unions to be more responsive to their union members to earn that membership,” Haahr says.

The Springfield Republican has been pushing right-to-work since being elected to the House in 2012.

Haahr says the bill includes a “grandfather clause” to protect existing union contracts.

“I think the House position originally was to not have that in there, but our goal at the end of the day was to become the 28th state and that seemed to be the path of least resistance and so we were happy to do that and keep that clause in there,” says Haahr.

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors) led the fight against right-to-work.

She says it will hurt middle-class families that drive the economy. Walsh also recently tweeted that her heart “breaks for the working-class families that will suffer under its impact, lower wages fewer jobs.”

The United Steelworkers Union, the Carpenters Union and several other trade unions testified against right-to-work in January, saying it will hurt middle-class families.

Missouri House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D-Kansas City) issued a statement on Monday, describing right-to-work as “anti-worker”.

Beatty says Greitens “should have had the courage to sign the bill” at Boeing, Ford or a union shop, so he could explain it to those workers. She says Greitens “chose to hide out in an abandoned warehouse” instead, referring to the Springfield bill-signing location.

State Rep. Doug Beck (D-St. Louis) says right-to-work will cost Missouri about $120 million in lost revenue.

Missouri’s new right-to-work law does not apply to federal employers and employees, nor to employers and employees covered by the federal Railway Labor Act.