Gov. Nixon vetoes 'right to work' legislation

Jun 4, 2015
Originally published on June 4, 2015 8:36 pm

As expected, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the “right-to-work” bill passed by state lawmakers just before their session ended last month.

The measure would stop employers from making union dues a condition of employment. As it stands now, unions and businesses can make that requirement if a majority of workers have voted to be in a union.

Nixon announced his veto Thursday at the Local 36 Sheet Metal Workers training building on Chouteau Ave. in St. Louis, surrounded by union members who booed and clapped in all the right places. Earlier in the day, he held a similar event in a suburb of Kansas City.

“Making it harder for workers to organize and collectively bargain will not strengthen our economy.  In fact, this legislation would reduce wages for everyone. In states with these laws workers, all workers, make thousands of dollars less per year than they do in states where they haven’t made that mistake,” the governor said.

His statement, with some caveats, is supported by statistics reported by the Wall Street Journal in 2012.

Nixon said he also vetoed the bill because it was “anti-business” and was an example of government telling businesses what they can do; in this case telling businesses they can’t choose to contract exclusively with union workers.

He also took issue with an element in the bill that opened employers up to lawsuits if they don’t comply.

“Let’s call it like it is. This extreme measure would take our state backward, squeeze the middle class, lower wages for Missouri families, and subject businesses to criminal and civil liability,” the governor said.

Proponents of the bill are expected to attempt to override Nixon’s veto in September. They say right to work is an economic development tool that will help bring more manufacturing jobs to the state.

But the governor says he’s confident that the Republicans who voted against the measure will stay the course.

“I feel very good about the override,” Nixon said, noting that both Democrats and Republicans voted against the measure in May and as it stands now the General Assembly doesn’t have the necessary votes for an override. “They need to stick with the working people, not shift to the out-of-state forces that are trying to come in and change their vote.”

Right-to-Work Supporters Respond

It didn’t take long for Republican leaders to fire back at Nixon for his veto.  Rep. Holly Rehder of Sikeston, who co-sponsored the measure, said the issue is not going away anytime soon.

“If it doesn’t pass through (during) veto session, I think this is gonna become a deciding factor in the governor’s race as well in 2016…this is something that, when polled, the majority of Missourians want,” Rehder said.

Rehder admitted, though, that there are currently not enough votes in the House to override Nixon’s veto. 

In his veto message, Nixon said that the right-to-work bill would have driven down wages for all Missourians, including those who don’t belong to a union.  In 1978, voters defeated a ballot measure that would have made Missouri a right-to-work state. 

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder also blasted Nixon for his veto, saying that Missouri’s status as a closed-shop union state is partially to blame for the loss of a congressional district following the 2010 census.

“And it’s going to happen again in 2021, after the next census…Missouri will lose another congressional seat, and anyone who’s on Governor Nixon’s side of this is arguing for staying the course we’re on now…well, Missourians can see, our young people are leaving for other states where there’s greater opportunity,” Kinder said.

Kinder and other prominent GOP leaders are urging their fellow Republicans in the Missouri House and Senate to override Nixon’s veto.  However, several pro-union Republicans in the House voted “no” when the bill passed earlier this year, and so far none of them is expected to change his or her vote.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille

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