JEFFERSON CITY - The fierce debate over right to work legislation has made its way into the Missouri Senate.
The Senate Small Business Committee met Tuesday, Mar. 10 in a completely packed hearing room to discuss the bill. Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, is the bill supporter and gave a full-throated defense of his legislation.
"Unions argue that the benefits of union membership justify workers to pay the dues," Brown said. "They argue that states with lower union membership have significantly lower wages. And the facts, as we'll see in testimonies, show that those statistics just are not true."
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder attended the committee hearing to support Brown's bill. According to Kinder, Missouri is on track to lose another congressional seat, and younger professionals are fleeing Missouri for places like Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona that already have right to work laws.
"We are losing out," Kinder said. "We are on a trajectory to be down to seven congressional seats, and the opponents to this bill I guess are OK with that. Well, I'm not OK with that. The trend in this nation is toward right to work; it's toward freedom to work."
Kinder's testimony was immediately followed by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, the leader of the largest metropolitan area in the state. Slay expressed his opposition to the right to work measure.
"I'm very, very proud that St. Louis is a strong union town," Slay said. "It's one that has outstanding union leadership."
Slay went on to say that unions actually help bring jobs to the state. He spoke specifically about how Boeing plans to bring 2,000 jobs to the St. Louis area.
"That would not happen without the strong leadership of organized labor in St. Louis and the state of Missouri," Slay said. Upon the conclusion of his testimony, Mayor Slay received applause from scores of opponents also attending the hearing.
The committee heard many from other opponents of right to work during the nearly three-hour debate. They said unions help provide better wages, superior health care and pension benefits.
Mark Sweeney of McCallum Sweeney Consulting testified for informational purposes. His company is a location consulting firm focusing on manufacturing and industrial clients.
"We help our clients make the most informed decisions to go to the location that best meets their strategic and operational needs," Sweeney said. "The vast majority, certainly well over 75 or 80 percent, of our manufacturing clients express a preference for operating in a non-union facility."
Sweeney said that clients often will limit their location searches to only states with similar right to work legislation in place.
"The primary reason given for this is workforce flexibility," Sweeney said. "It allows companies to compete more effectively and in a more timely manner for opportunities in their highly-competitive markets."
After Wisconsin passed their version of right to work on Monday, Mar. 9, there are now 25 states in the country with these types of laws.
As is customary upon its first reading, the committee took no immediate action on the bill.