Right-to-work ship has sailed ... at least for now

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Several years ago, I sat down with former House Speaker Ron Richards to discuss right-to-work legislation for Missouri.

Richards knew I had been a longtime supporter of right-to-work, having seen surrounding states attract industry away from our region based solely on right-to-work.

I cited several examples that day to illustrate the unfair competition Missouri faced from our neighboring states like Arkansas and Tennessee.

Richards agreed and proposed a series of legislative hearings to vet the issue in a prelude to a statewide vote.

Yet even with this agreement, there was the reality — and past history — that a statewide initiative would be a tough sale.

So we discussed another option. How about putting the issue of right-to-work on a county-by-county basis?

That would allow counties in the Bootheel, for example, who face this stiff competition to level the playing field in attracting new industry and jobs.

We recognized that some counties — particularly in urban areas — have high union membership and less competition from right-to-work states.

The chances of those counties approving the issue were slim at best.

Our discussion that day never progressed. That is often the result of political discussions.

But now we hear that Gov. Mike Parson may be inclined to support a county-by-county vote on right-to-work.

Though our support for right-to-work remains strong, it’s time to put this measure to rest. At least for the foreseeable future.

Missouri voters in August rejected a statewide right-to-work ballot by an overwhelming margin.

Two-thirds of Missourians said no to the issue and that should send a clear signal that Missouri needs to move on to other pressing issues.

Perhaps there are other ways that the Missouri Legislature can help attract more industry our way. There are tax incentives and infrastructure offers and training initiatives that can help our state compete fairly with right to work states.

Right-to-work, despite what I believe is a fair argument, is a divisive issue that creates emotional factions in direct competition.

The voters of Missouri have spoken very clearly and though I disagree with the outcome, we need to explore other options on creating jobs and leave right-to-work in the past.

At least one right-to-work bill has been pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session and we can only hope it never sees the light of day.

Opponents of right-to-work are on target.

Missouri voters have spoken and all discussion on Missouri joining other right-to-work states needs to end.

There may indeed be a day far into the future when right-to-work makes sense for the majority of Missourians.

That day is not now.

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