Legislative Column for the Week of May 11, 2015

Right-to-Work Debate Breaks
Senate Tradition

The First Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly has entered into its final week of session, and controversy was not excluded from debate. The halls of the Missouri State Capitol and gallery of the Senate Chamber were filled with hundreds of union workers in protest of the much-anticipated House Bill 116 & 569, legislation that would make Missouri the 26th Right-to-Work state.

This measure would prohibit an employer from requiring a person to become a member of a labor organization as a condition or continuation of employment. Right-to-Work laws will prohibit unions and their employers from entering into contracts that would require every employee to pay union dues regardless of their choice to join the union.

Recently we have seen a drastic increase in the number of jobs moving to Right-to-Work states. In March, Volvo announced plans to build a factory in the United States in order to create more American jobs. The foreign automaker also announced that the plant will be built in South Carolina, another Right-to-Work state, and is predicted to bring 4,000 jobs to the state by 2030. We need to bring these jobs to this state and put more Missourians to work.

Missouri is surrounded by right to work states with the exception of Illinois and Kentucky, and we are losing jobs to these bordering states. It is imperative that Missouri be competitive in attracting jobs. According to reports released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have been behind for the last six decades. Between 2002 and 2012, Right-to-Work states have experienced an 11.1 percent job growth while Missouri has watched 1.9 percent of its jobs leave the state, many of which were union jobs. This is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.

I am concerned that by not making Missouri a Right-to-Work state the job market for our future generations will be severely diminished. As we continually watch potential employers avoid Missouri, Right-to-Work is vital for the future economic development of our state.

Union members against Right-to-Work, argue that their jobs will be in jeopardy. However, states such as Indiana, which became a Right-to-Work state in 2012, have experienced an increase in union membership, which was previously at an all-time low, and attracted 107 new projects with companies stating Right-to-Work influenced their decision to locate and expand throughout the state.

For decades the Bureau of Labor Statistics released reports showing that Right-to-Work states have far surpassed states that practice forced-unionization in job creation. Right-to-Work states are on average showing a 2.6 percent annual growth, while forced-unionized states are only producing a 1.4 percent growth. We are on a broken path, one which I feel can be mended by making Missouri a Right-to-Work state.

After a nearly nine hour filibuster, numerous colleagues of mine enacted a tactic that is seldom used in the Missouri Senate called the ‘previous question.’ According to Rule 84 of the Missouri Senate, the previous question can only be admitted in written form and must include the signature of five Senators, and must be sustained by a two-thirds vote, which is 23 votes. This parliamentary motion, also known as PQ, is the only action that can be taken to stop a filibuster and force a vote of the legislation. Whereas, the action of calling a PQ is used quite often in the House, it is an act that is sometimes threatened and rarely seen in the Senate because it is viewed as restricting the debate and hindering the legislative process. The ‘previous question’ has been invoked only 27 times since 1970.

The Senate is intended to operate in a manner that supports open and fair debate. I also support that a vote must be taken once every Senator has had the opportunity to be heard and the debate is absolutely complete. I feel that the revered manner in which the Senate operates when calling of a ‘previous question’ should be used sparingly and cautiously. In fact, and engraving on the Senate Chamber wall states, “free and fair discussion will ever be found the firmest friend of truth.”

In the same manner that the Senate must have a vote, by filibustering for countless hours, the minority party is blocking the will of the majority party. Although it was clear the minority party was not intending on allowing a vote on the Right-to-Work laws, I believe that calling a PQ disrespects the sanctity of the fairness and equality the Senate operates under. Because of this belief I voted against the previous question motion.

I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government so that I can better represent you during the 2015 Legislative Session.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at wayne.wallingford@senate.mo.gov or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.

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