State Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis, says a “known racist” started the Right-to-work movement against the unionization of workers. During Friday debate on the House floor, May spoke in opposition to a proposed change to the state Constitution that would make Right-to-work the law in Missouri.

Representative Karla May (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Van Muse, who started the Right-to-work movement, because the alliance of the AFL and the CIO were African-American,” said May. “Because of the partnership and the deal that was cut with Martin Luther King and labor.”

The agreement included certain wages, working conditions and health care for union workers, among other things.

During a history lesson May gave on the House floor, she said Muse started the Christian American Association – an organization that led a far right-wing in Texas labor politics. Muse, who used segregationist positions to argue against unions, helped to pass the first anti-union laws in Texas and led efforts to pass several similar laws in the American South in the early to mid-1900s.

“We have come a long way, but we have not come far enough. I don’t like the residue, the residual residue. That’s what I call it – the residual residue of policies that were implemented that were racial policies,” said May.

Many Republicans contend that Right-to-work, which would ban mandatory union fees in the workplace, would improve the state’s economy. Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, also predicts that a Right-to-work law would increase union jobs in Missouri.

The measure has received initial approval in the House and would require a public vote if passed by the full legislature. It’s one of two Right-to-work proposals being fast-tracked in this final week of the GOP-controlled legislature’s regular session.

The other measure would move the union-backed proposal known as Proposition A from the November general election to the August primary. Proposition A is a referendum that asks Missourians whether they want Right-to-work to become law.

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