by Félix Pérez
In a display of bipartisanship despite deep-pocketed pressure from the Koch Brothers and out-of-state corporate lobbyists, members of the Missouri House of Representatives voted last week to sustain Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of so-called right-to-work legislation.
Take Action ›
Don’t miss out on the kind of education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. Click here ›
The vote, 96-63, was hailed as a victory for workers, families and students — and an embarrassing defeat for the Koch brothers’ campaign arm, Americans for Prosperity. The House needed at least 109 votes to override the veto.
Right to work, which weakens labor unions by allowing non-union workers to benefit from union-negotiated contracts without paying dues, has been found to result in smaller paychecks, no improvement in a state’s employment rate and lowered health and safety standards. A growing body of research studies shows that right-to-work laws are harmful to workers and local economies.
“Today’s bipartisan action by the legislature to uphold my veto of this divisive, anti-worker bill is a victory for workers, families and businesses here in Missouri and across the country,” Gov. Nixon said in a statement. “I thank the members of the General Assembly – both Democrats and Republicans — who sent a clear message to the nation that Missouri will stand by its workers and oppose attempts by outside special interests to cut wages and weaken the middle-class.”
The negative effect of right-to-work laws on students is not lost on educators. Wrote Missouri NEA, the state’s largest teacher-led union, at the time of Nixon’s veto:
States with ‘Right-to-Work’ laws trail behind in important aspects that matter to children and schools. Those states generally have lower wages, less investment in public education and healthcare, reduced access to employer-provided healthcare and higher poverty. Educational success for students often lags behind in ‘Right-to-Work’ states.
The high-profile stakes of the vote drew nationwide interest. For instance, presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement. “I applaud the leadership of Governor Jay Nixon and the bipartisan group of legislators who successfully blocked a harmful “right to work” law in Missouri.
“A number of states, bankrolled by powerful corporate interests, have passed these laws in recent years. Their name is misleading. Instead of respecting workers or protecting their rights, “right to work” laws depress wages and benefits, undercut unions, and concentrate power in the hands of corporations and their allies. They’re bad for workers, bad for the economy, and bad for America. . .
“In Missouri, lawmakers said enough is enough. And by doing that, they scored a victory for Missourians and workers everywhere.”
Another candidate who has his sights on the White House wants to expand right-to-work. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced this week that, if elected, he would enact a national right-to-work law and eliminate unions for federal employees. Walker, whose candidacy has been sinking in national polls, signed a right-to-work law in March despite repeated pledges he had no interest in the divisive matter. The state law signed by Walker is identical to model legislation drafted by ALEC.
Unhappy with the bipartisan defeat of the veto override, Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, a Republican candidate for governor, promised to keep the issue alive. Kinder is an ALEC member.