Proposed ‘right to work’ constitutional amendment heads to Missouri Senate

Proposed ‘right to work’ constitutional amendment heads to Missouri Senate

Protestors line the street outside the abandoned Amelex warehouse in Springfield, Mo. where Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens held a ceremonial signing of “right-to-work” legislation on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. The governor and other backers of right to work say it will bring business to the state and give workers the choice not to pay into a union if they don’t want to join. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

JEFFERSON CITY • A proposed constitutional amendment to make Missouri a “right to work” state is headed to the Senate.

The House approved the proposal 93-54 Monday night. The measure is one of two rolling through the Legislature in the final week of the session that some worry could undercut a referendum on whether the state will allow employees to opt out of union representation.

The other proposal, which originated in the Senate, would move the referendum from November to August, when voter turnout is lower. That measure is now pending in the House, and a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday night.

 The session ends Friday at 6 p.m.

Supporters of the proposed amendment said enshrining it in the state’s constitution would resolve the issue.

“Where better to place a protection for individual freedom than in our constitution,” said Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, the proposal’s sponsor. “This will settle it once and for all.”

The amendment would have to be approved by voters, thought it’s unclear if it would be on the August or November ballot. The governor can call a special election to decide the issue.

Critics said two competing ballot questions could confuse voters, who should be given the chance to have their voices heard.

“If right to work passes on the ballot, that’s what the people want,” said Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.

Last year, Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law a bill making Missouri a “right to work” state, arguing it would boost the economy.

But then labor organizations collected about 300,000 signatures forcing a referendum on the new law.

This year, A New Missouri, a dark money group created to push Greitens’ agenda, spent more than $1 million on pushing a “right to work” referendum. But it failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The legislation is House Joint Resolution 79.