One measure proposed by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, would make Missouri the 25th right-to-work state in the country.
The measure would not require employers to force unions onto employees, or pay union dues.
Burlison testified in front of a House Workforce Committee Monday, Feb. 24, presenting data to show how becoming a right-to-work state benefits job growth and wages.
“This is a fact about freedom to work states that is contrary to popular belief, is they see their union memberships going up,” Burlison said.
Rep. Michael Frame, D-Jefferson County, was a staunch defender of the unions.
“If we don’t allow your unions in the first place you will get stronger, I guess it’s the same idea if I cut off one of your arms, you would get stronger with the other arm,” Frame said.
Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis City, and Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, joined Frame in defending the unions.
A resident of Missouri’s 49th District, Phil Todd, testified in favor of Missouri becoming a right-to-work state even though he has been a part of two different unions over his working career.
“Let the free-market forces decide whether or not it’s going to be a mutual benefit for the workers,” Todd said.
One of the bigger labor representatives, The Greater St. Louis Labor Council, testified against the bill, while one of the biggest businesses, The Chamber of Commerce, supported it.
An emotionally charged testimony came from Robert Soutier, President of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council.
“Everything that’s being proposed will hurt workers, it hurts the very core people that we represent,” said Soutier. “It drives wages down. Why are we interested in attracting low wage workers to this state?”
The Committee heard back to back union freedom bills. Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, proposed an almost identical bill that would take effect by county instead of state wide.
Rehder said this would help counties bordering right-to-work states, using her own as an example.
“We are right on the border and so we lose business to Arkansas and this is intended to stop that leakage,” Rehder said.