JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has made Missouri the 28th state to ban mandatory union fees and dues, delivering a big win for primarily GOP supporters who have worked for years to pass the so-called right-to-work measure.
The move Feb. 6 amid a national push to implement such policies. Republicans in Congress have introduced a version of right-to-work legislation that would, for the first time, allow millions of workers to opt out of union membership.
Seven of eight states that surround Missouri already have right-to-work laws, including Kentucky where it passed last month. New Hampshire senators on Thursday passed a similar bill that awaits a House vote.
Greitens travelled the state Monday for ceremonial bill signings, including a stop in an abandoned warehouse in the southwest Missouri city of Springfield. He signed an official copy later Monday in the Capitol.
The governor and other backers of right to work say it will bring business to the state and give workers the choice not to pay into a union if they don’t want to join. Primarily Democratic opponents in the Legislature and labour organizations say it will weaken unions and could lead to lower wages. Hundreds of union workers and other opponents on Thursday packed the House visitors’ galleries to watch as lawmakers took a final vote on the bill.
Democrats launched criticisms of Greitens before his first public appearance Monday morning. House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty criticized Greitens for choosing to hold a bill signing ceremony in an abandoned warehouse, “far from critical questioning by the hardworking Missourians.”
“Governor Greitens should have had the courage to sign this bill into law before employees at Boeing, Ford or one of the many other proud union shops in our state so he could explain to their faces exactly how Missouri will be better off when they have less power to negotiate for higher wages, decent benefits and safer working conditions,” she said in a statement.
Right to work is to take effect Aug. 28. It exempts contracts in place before then until they are renewed, extended or modified. That gives unions a few months to try to rework contracts and delay the effects of right to work.
Data are inconclusive about the effects of right to work on union membership, which has varied by state.
Greitens’ signature isn’t necessarily the end of the right-to-work battle in Missouri.
Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis has submitted several versions of a proposed initiative petition to the secretary of state’s office that would reverse a right-to-work law. If enough signatures are collected, voters could decide in 2018 whether to adopt a constitutional amendment protecting workplace contracts requiring all employees to pay fees covering the costs of union representation.