Following Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of right-to-work legislation in Missouri, the state has become the latest battleground for the statute that has long been Public Enemy No. 1 for organized labor.
Right-to-work laws, which prohibit union agreements requiring employee membership or payment of union dues as a condition for employment, have so far been enacted in 25 states. The most recent states to opt for them were union-strong Michigan in 2012 and Wisconsin in 2015.
In Kentucky this year, Republican gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin has made right-to-work a centerpiece of his campaign.
And in Missouri, with both houses of the state legislature firmly in Republican hands, the state House of Representatives voted for right-to-work by 92-66, and the Senate voted for the measure 21-13.
"But to override [Nixon's] veto, we will need a two-thirds vote in each chamber — 109 in the House and 23 in the Senate — and that's slightly more than voted for right-to-work initially," Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, one of the leading political figures in the Show-Me State's right-to-work crusade, told Newsmax.
Few in Missouri on either side rule out the possibility of an override. Republicans have a 74 percent majority in the Senate — 25 Republicans to nine Democrats. In the House, 72 percent of the chamber is Republican — 117 to 44 Democrats. In short, if Republicans are united, Nixon's veto can be overridden.
Kinder told us he is devoting "my entire summer" to mobilizing support statewide to urge lawmakers on the fence to vote for an override.
In virtually all the union-fueled campaigns against right-to-work, opponents have branded the issue "right-to-work-for-less" and said the lack of union activity on workers' behalf will surely spell lower wages.
Not so, insisted Kinder and F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Writing in the Washington Times recently, Kinder and Vernuccio pointed to research showing that in right-to-work states, workers make about 4 percent more in personal income than those in non-right-to-work states.
"During the same time," they wrote, "right-to-work states added more jobs (4.3 million) than did states that allow unions to compel payment (2.4 million)."
More significantly, and contrary to a saga spun by union chieftains for decades, right-to-work has not been a "membership killer" for unions. As Kinder and Vernuccio observed, "unions in Indiana, the 23rd state to enact right-to-work, added 50,000 members in 2014."
Their source for these figures is the Obama-run Department of Labor.
In terms of electoral politics, right-to-work was more often than not a risky proposition. In 1958, for example, when right-to-work appeared on Ohio's statewide ballot and was defeated by a large margin, the results were pivotal to Democrat Stephen Young's narrow upset victory over two-term Republican Sen. John W. Bricker, who favored the proposal.
In California that same year, Edmund "Pat" Brown Sr. (father of present Gov. Jerry Brown), won his first term as governor with nearly 60 percent of the vote and his fellow Democrats took control of the state Assembly for the first time in state history. This sweep was in large part due to the big defeat for a statewide right-to-work initiative known as Proposition 18.
"All that is ancient history," Kinder told us, "[Republican] Gov. Rick Snyder signed right-to-work into law in Michigan in 2012 and two years later, as he was winning re-election, not a single legislator who voted for the measure lost."
He also recalled how in 2011, Wisconsin's GOP Gov. Scott Walker orchestrated landmark reforms in pension and healthcare that made him the top national target for extinction by organized labor.
"But Gov. Walker survived a recall and won re-election, and Republicans picked up seats in the state legislature," Kinder said.
Kinder, who said he is "seriously considering" a bid for governor next year, when Nixon is termed out, also said he would be proud to run on a pro-right-to-work platform if lawmakers fail to override Nixon's veto this year.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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