The IBEW and other unions have fought back against the Missouri Legislature’s anti-working family agenda for years. They’re in the midst of another battle.

When the state Senate and House return to session on March 29, one of their first actions is expected to be an attempt to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of “paycheck deception” legislation.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed paycheck deception legislation during the current legislative session. Photo used by a Flickr/Creative Commons agreement with Bernard Pollack

Nixon issued the veto last week after the Republican-dominated House and Senate passed the bill earlier this session. Missouri law requires a two-thirds vote in both legislative bodies to override a governor’s veto.

Paycheck deception laws – which proponents call “paycheck protection” -- require public employees who are members of unions to state in writing each year they want union dues taken out of their paychecks. Police and first-responder workers who are members of unions are exempt from the proposed Missouri law.   

“Making it harder for teachers and mental health workers to exercise their constitutional right to organize is wrong and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Nixon said in a statement. “Lawmakers should be supporting workers instead of attacking their constitutional right to organize for fair wages and safe workplaces.”

Many Republicans are using proposed laws like paycheck deception to punish unions, which usually support pro-working family candidates. The Missouri law may be even more egregious because it exempts some workers while continuing attacks on teachers and other service providers.

The laws create unnecessary regulations and apply rules to unions that don’t apply to other organizations. The Chamber of Commerce – which supports the law in Missouri – is not required to ask its members for permission to deduct dues, for instance.

Rudy Chavez, Missouri state political coordinator for the 11th District, said another complicating factor is the filing deadline to run for state office in Missouri is 5 p.m. on the 29th.  Some Republican legislators who might vote against the override are fearful they will face a well-funded primary challenge from a far-right candidate if they do so, he said.

In one sense, the Missouri Republicans have little margin for error. The bill passed the Senate 23-7.  It passed the House with 109 votes. Both were exactly the margins needed for an override.

Last year, there were 18 Republican House members who crossed over and voted against overriding Nixon’s veto of a right-to-work bill last year, killing that legislation. But Chavez said convincing Republicans to flip on the paycheck-deception bill is more difficult.

“In our discussions with legislators last year [over right-to-work], you could tell we were going to sustain the veto,” said Chavez, who also is president of Kansas City, Mo., Local 124. “I could bet the house on it. This one is a little bit tougher. We’re going to continue to work with these legislators in their districts and show them what is going on.”

That’s because House Speaker Todd Richardson has assured his membership that right-to-work and a repeal of prevailing wage legislation will not come up during the current session if they adopt paycheck deception, Chavez said, avoiding other contentious political issues during an election year. 

State law prohibits Nixon from running for a third term and Missouri will elect a new governor in November. Only seven Republican House members and one Republican Senate member flipped to vote against the paycheck deception bill during this session. One Democratic House member and one Democratic Senate member voted for it.

 “Some of these legislators have bought into that and voted with the majority,” Chavez said. “That’s what they’re hanging their hat on. They don’t want more than one labor vote [in this session].”

Jefferson City, Mo., Local 257 Business Manager Don Bruemmer said he’s heard about the agreement as well. But he calls paycheck deception “nothing but a mini-right-to-work.”

“It’s just another step in what they’re trying to do, which is beat down on labor,” Bruemmer said. “They don’t think it draws as much attention as right-to-work, but it allows them to keep beating down on us.”

Bruemmer, a member of the Missouri AFL-CIO’s executive board, is just as concerned about the future of prevailing wage law for public works projects in the state.

A Republican House member introduced a bill last month to weaken prevailing wage in the state, but it has seen little action since, in part because of Richardson’s plan not to pursue other anti-worker legislation this year.

Prevailing wage laws require contractors doing business with the government to pay their workers at pre-determined levels. The proposed Missouri law would allow contractors to bid while paying their workers minimum wage.

“My local is in the capital of the state and we’re a construction local,” Bruemmer said. “There’s a lot of state government buildings that we work on. You lose prevailing wage, that affects us the very next day along with the contractors that work with us.”

In the meantime, the imminent threat is the paycheck deception issue.

“It’s going to take a great deal of work to win this one,” Chavez said.

The bill may face a court challenge if passed because of the exemption for police and first responders. Sponsors of the bill have admitted it was added to ensure passage through the Legislature