Missouri could soon become the third U.S. state to implement workplace freedom since 2012, joining the 24 states where workers are already protected from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
The Freedom to Work Act, introduced as House Bill 1099 (HB 1099) this month, would prevent Missouri unions from requiring workers to “Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization,” and would ensure that workers could not be fired for refusing to pay union “fair share” fees.
Of the eight states bordering Missouri, all but Illinois and Kentucky have workplace freedom — commonly referred to as Right to Work — laws.
Proponents argue that not only does workplace freedom make sense in terms of personal liberty, states with workplace freedom laws tend to have better job growth and higher disposable income, which translates into increased opportunity for their residents.
This is certainly true for Missouri; of six neighboring workplace freedom states, five are beating the Show Me State in both job creation and disposable personal income.
While Missouri and Illinois shed jobs from 2002 to 2012, all six of the workplace freedom states bordering Missouri experienced job growth. Four of the six workplace freedom states bordering Missouri added jobs at more than twice the rate of forced-unionism Kentucky.
Oklahoma, the job growth standout of Missouri and its neighbors, passed Right to Work legislation in 2001.
Comparing per capita disposable income, which subtracts taxes but doesn’t account for other cost of living factors, Missouri’s workplace freedom neighbor Nebraska topped Missouri’s forced-unionism neighbor Illinois in 2012.
Forced-unionism Missouri had lower per capita disposable income than five of its six adjacent workplace freedom states, and forced-unionism Kentucky came in dead last among Missouri and its neighbors.
These and other economic indicators have Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) angling to help Missouri follow the lead of Indiana and Michigan, which both enacted workplace freedom laws in 2012.
Speaker Jones and House Majority Floor Leader John Diehl (R-Town and Country) are both cosponsors of HB 1099 and similar proposals, to the dismay of the state and national union bosses who benefit from mandatory dues. Jones has expressed his intent to take the issue to Missouri’s voters.
“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,” Bill McMorris at The Washington Free Beacon explained on January 7. “Republicans have a 110-53 advantage in the Missouri House of Representatives and a 28-10 advantage in the Missouri Senate.”
“Michigan’s right-to-work law has sent a message that is both a warning and an inspiration to other states,” F. Vincent Vernuccio and Joseph G. Lehman wrote in The Wall Street Journal in December 2012.
“The inspiration comes to the supporters of worker freedom that if Michigan can give union members a choice, so can they. The warning comes to its neighbors that Michigan is open for business.”
Missouri’s Freedom to Work Act is opposed by union bosses, by the politicians who rely on their financial support, and by labor front groups like We Are Missouri, a “diverse coalition of students, seniors, workers & families fighting to protect Missouri’s middle class.”
“So called ‘Right to Work’ bills are just wrong,” We Are Missouri’s website warns. “They lead to less jobs, lower wages, and more dangerous workplaces.”
An anti-workplace freedom petition We Are Missouri is circulating as its own is actually hosted by the AFL-CIO.