"Right to Work" Debate

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House heard testimony Monday afternoon debating a bill titled "Freedom to Work Act."

If that title sounds familiar, that is because it is a rephrasing of a commonly used Republican term "right to work." In essence, the bill would prohibit unions from charging dues to workers who choose not to participate in the union. Republicans say the bill would give workers more freedom while attracting more businesses.

At the moment, if a union collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for a private employer mandates that an employee of that business chooses not to be a union member, they may still be liable to pay fees.

Democrats say bills like this one as a way to cripple the collective bargaining power of unions and lower wages.

"The title of the bill is misleading," St. Louis County Executive Charles Dooley said. "Right to work really means union busting."

Bill sponsor Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said the bill would actually give unions more strength, while creating more jobs by attracting businesses.

"The freedom to join a union strengthens each union by giving them the drive to keep up with an ever changing workplace, a workplace that desperately needs organizations that are responsive to their members," Burlison said.

Rep. Michael Frame, D-Eureka, argued the only reason a "right to work" bill would attract more businesses to Missouri is because it would lower wages for workers.

"I thought it was common sense that right to work would result in lower wages," Frame said. "It seems like anyone supporting this bill refuses to answer if wages will go down if it's passed."

The House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee will hear more public testimony on the bill before deciding whether the bill will make it to the House floor.