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Missouri Speaker to Push for Right to Work Law

Tim Jones to urge ballot initiative in coming year

Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R.) / AP
• January 7, 2014 9:59 am

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One of Missouri’s top officials is attempting to rally voters to make the "Show-Me" state the nation’s 25th right to work state.

House Speaker Tim Jones (R.) embarked on a statewide tour last week to tout worker freedom laws as a top priority for the Republican majority in the coming year. As Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is a top labor ally Jones is taking his message directly to the people.

"We’ve been debating this for six or seven years and there’s been little to no movement" in the legislature, Jones said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. "We’re going to have to take this to the voters because the people need to weigh in on this."

Jones has earned the support of worker freedom groups across the country. Mark Mix, president of the Right to Work Foundation, which was a driving force behind the passage of right to work laws in Michigan and Indiana, said that Missouri could become more attractive to potential investors and businesses if citizens send the message that they support a pro-jobs, rather than pro-union, agenda.

"Missouri is just one state that will be pushing right to work as the 2014 legislative sessions begin," Mix said. "The individual freedom that right to work brings to the workplace is the foremost priority but it can no longer be a serious debate over the economic benefits and jobs that right to work laws bring."

Jones, a long-time backer of right to work, said the GOP needs to force the issue and the 2014 ballot is the surest way to make sure it actually gets to a vote. While right to work has long been an issue of contention in Missouri, there is a renewed sense of urgency because of regional competition for jobs.

Missouri borders eight states and all but two of them, Kentucky and Illinois, are right to work states. Other regional competitors, including Michigan and Indiana, became "worker freedom" states, as Jones call them, in 2013.

"Many other states have moved past us and incorporated worker freedom laws. Missouri is going to be left behind very quickly in economic battles if it doesn’t compete with our neighbor’s policies," Jones said. "If we want to lag behind, we can keep covering our eyes to this fact."

He pointed to the departure of automobile manufacturing from the state over the past two decades. Ford shuttered a St. Louis area plant that employed more than 1,400 people in 2006. Chrysler closed two more operations in the region in 2008 and 2009, removing 43,000 jobs and $15 billion in the process. Jones said that right to work could have helped Missouri compete with the lower cost, union-free manufacturing plants in Tennessee where the auto industry is expanding.

"Being a pro-union, closed-shop state has not helped us retain jobs, it’s made us lose jobs at a more rapid pace," he said. "Right to work laws force unions to compete, to allow free market to flood in, cause more jobs and opportunities to be available. All the red herrings that are thrown out are false."

Jones is more optimistic about the effectiveness of right to work laws than he is his fellow lawmakers. He recognizes that Nixon, who received nearly $2.5 million from labor unions in 2008 and 2012, will never sign the bill and that unions have also endorsed key state senate Republicans in 2012. The ballot initiative process will help him bypass those obstacles.

Potential laws can be added to the ballot with simple majority votes in the House and Senate and do not require approval from the governor. Republicans have a 110-53 advantage in the Missouri House of Representatives and a 28-10 advantage in the Missouri Senate. Jones aims to create a mandate for the ballot initiative by delivering a strong showing in the House that will force the more labor-friendly Senate’s hand and avoid a filibuster.

"We have quite a few GOP members who are friendly to big labor interests, but if this is given a fair vote—no filibuster—it will pass," he said. "The higher the vote of the representatives, the louder the message that’s sent."

Published under: Right to Work, Unions