When the votes were tallied, the IBEW and other advocates for working families in Missouri beat back an attempt to pass a paycheck deception law in the state.

The Missouri Senate voted 22-10 in favor of the legislation on May 13, but that was one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. The House voted a week earlier to override the veto.

“It was a difficult session. Thank God it’s over with,” said Missouri State Electrical Workers Conference President Michael Datillo. “This was a big win for labor.”

Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who cast the vote that kept paycheck deception from becoming law in Missouri. The state’s legislators traditionally stack copies of bills and other material on their desks for a paper toss to celebrate the end of the legislative session. Photo provided under a Creative Commons agreement by Missouri Lawyers Media.

Known as paycheck protection laws by supporters, the Missouri legislation would have required public sector employees who are members of unions to state in writing each year they wanted union dues taken out of their paychecks. The push is part of a coordinated attack by moneyed interests effectively using politicians to advance their anti-labor agenda, said state Political Coordinator Rudy Chavez, who is Kansas City Local 124 president.

“There are probably 90 members of the GOP [in the state Legislature] who are voting the will of their big money donors over their constituents,” Chavez said. “Polling shows that right-to-work and paycheck deception are not pressing interests to most people.”

Police and first-responder workers who are union members were exempt from the proposed law, which likely would have spurred a court challenge. Republican sponsors admitted that provision was put in the bill to secure more legislative support.

Opponents argued that membership in public sector unions in Missouri is already voluntary. The move was just an another attack on organized labor and an attempt to drive down wages, they said.

The deciding vote was cast by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal from University City, a St. Louis suburb. Chappelle-Nadal was the lone Democratic senator to vote in favor of the legislation earlier in the session. She was the last senator to cast her vote, setting up a tense situation on the Senate floor. Her no vote came just after midnight, the Kansas City Star reported.

Republicans have held overwhelming majorities in the Missouri Legislature in recent years, enough to override many vetoes by Nixon, a Democrat who has been in office since 2009.

But enough GOP legislators have crossed over to beat some anti-worker legislation. That was the case again as Republican senators Ryan Silvey from Kansas City and Gary Romine from Farmington voted no, as did Bill Kidd, a Republican House member from Blue Springs in suburban Kansas City, who has consistently supported working families.

Chavez characterized the language in the legislation as sloppy and open to a legal challenge had it passed.

“There were some constitutional holes in it and we were going to court,” he said. “That was going to be our next play. But lawyers charge by the hour.”

Observers feared passage of the legislation would have emboldened conservative forces next year to try to pass a similar law for private sector workers.

The Missouri General Assembly passed a right-to-work law in 2015, but Nixon vetoed it and the House failed to override it. There also has been legislation filed in the past to weaken prevailing wage laws. Right-to-work proponents, backed by far-right groups, continue to push for a right-to-work law in the state.

“It’s difficult when you are outnumbered,” said Datillo, who is also St. Louis Local 1455 business manager, adding that there are 65 Republicans running for seats in the state Legislature that are uncontested. “Those are 65 seats that Republicans are going to hold because we can’t get Democrats to run.” 

The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC and comprised of conservative politicians and business representatives who write model laws for right-wing legislators around the country, also has been active in pushing anti-labor legislation in Missouri. And Chavez said members of the Joplin-based Humphreys family, which owns a building products manufacturer, have through a non-profit organization spent $2 million recently to run television and radio ads with instructions to union members on how to decertify their union. 

The battles against working people in Missouri likely won’t end anytime soon. Both the state House and Senate are expected to remain overwhelmingly Republican following the November elections, and state law prohibits Nixon from running for a third term. Attorney General Chris Koster is considered the prohibitive favorite among four Democratic candidates and has supported pro-working family policies in the past. Missouri’s gubernatorial primary is Aug. 2.

Homepage Photo provided under a Creative Commons agreement by People’s World.