The approval of right-to-work laws in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana has raised the likelihood that a raft of such bills will be filed next month in the 97th Missouri Assembly, which now has veto-proof Republican "super majorities" in both houses, area lawmakers say.
State Sen. Ed Emery of Lamar and Rep. Randy Pike of Adrian back the concept, and Emery plans to file a bill of his own if he does not quickly see one that looks like it will fly.
"One of the issues I campaigned on was for our state to get workers more freedom," said Emery, a Republican who served eight years in the House of Representatives in Jefferson City. "I believe it is a liberty issue that has always demonstrated it's good for prosperity.
"It's something that's hurting Missouri right now because if you look at the numbers from states that stopped requiring union membership, what it does for the economy is amazing. People go back to work and there is no evidence that union members lose jobs or even their wages.
"There are just more people who can go to work. Folks don't have to be members of a union."
Emery said last Tuesday that the only detriment he knows of is that organizations like the United Auto Workers, Missouri's predominant union, might lose membership. He said the House and Senate, sporting two-thirds GOP advantages, could make it a right-to-work state just by passing a law and overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's probable veto. A statewide voters' referendum would not be required, he said.
"Right-to-work has never been my primary issue, so I have to start gathering the information I need to get up to speed," Emery said. "I don't have a clue what Jay Nixon's vision is of the future, or how it could affect what he does as governor.
"But I think the facts of Missouri's need for jobs and the benefits other states have experienced will make it harder and harder for him to oppose it without fairly serious consequences as Missouri continues downward in jobs and our economy.
"We're near the bottom in so many economic measures. As other states do better, you have to compare what the policy differences are. I'll probably work on legislation myself, but I don't necessarily have to have my own bill. As long as someone has good legislation, I will be happy to join it."
According to references, 25 states have laws prohibiting security agreements between unions and companies that govern the extent to which a union can mandate employees' membership and payment of dues or fees as a requirement of employment.
Pike said he will review all such bills before voting on them, but he supports the idea. "I'm all for the right to work," the Republican said.
"I think it would create jobs and open up the market. It's one thing we definitely need in Missouri. Gov. Nixon might veto it, but I'd say there might be a good chance to approve it."
Pike did not know which House members will file bills, but he had heard recent conversations among them about the issue. "The UAW and other unions have a lot of influence," he said.
"It's heavier in some areas of the state than others, so it won't go without controversy. I can guarantee that."
Pike is succeeding Rep. Barney Fisher, who is completing eight years in the House and long wanted to be part of approving a right-to-work law. "We could have passed it easily in the House," Fisher said Friday.
"The Senate was always the holdup. They had a bill last session, but it didn't go anywhere. It would be a monumental controversy. The capitol would look like Michigan's capitol and Wisconsin's capitol. I'd like to be there, but I would probably need body armor."
Lauding Emery's pledge to introduce a bill or co-sponsor one, Fisher said House speakers have been reluctant to slate the necessary timed debate with each party getting eight hours. "The speakers would not invest that kind of time to see it wash out in the Senate," he said.
"We always said, 'The Senate needs to get it out and then we'll pass it.'"