The Missouri Governor’s Race: Deciding the Fate of “Right to Work”

Throughout the past three years, the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly has passed multiple right-to-work bills, which would have made it illegal for union contracts to require that employees pay union dues.

Both bills were vetoed, however, by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

Now, Governor Nixon is reaching the end of his second term — and thus cannot run for reelection per the Missouri State Constitution’s term limits. Advocates of right-to-work legislation see an opening for a more sympathetic governor. Republican nominee Eric Greitens has pledged to sign a right-to-work bill, while Democratic candidate Chris Koster has hinted that he would follow in the steps of Governor Nixon.

Supporters of right-to-work legislation believe that such laws will let businesses run more efficiently and profitably, attract enterprises to Missouri, and create lower unemployment rates.

Those who oppose right-to-work laws often dub such legislation “right to work for less,” arguing that it will weaken the bargaining power of unions, create a less skilled workforce, and decrease wages.

There are currently 26 “right to work” states in the United States. Should Greitens win the governorship, Missouri could soon become the 27th.

If Koster were to take office, there is a possibility that the composition of the state legislature could change enough to guarantee an override of any future veto on right-to-work bills. In September 2015, the Missouri State House fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority that would have allowed the legislature to override Governor Nixon’s veto on the right-to-work law HB 116.

It is extremely likely that the state legislature will maintain its Republican majority in the General Election, but the chances are much smaller that enough additional Republicans will be elected to the House to ensure an override. As a result, the gubernatorial race will likely be the crucial tipping point for the future of labor legislation in Missouri.

For more info about right to work and the ongoing battle between labor and business, make sure to check out our recent post Virginia’s right to work constitutional amendment, on the ballot this fall. Keep tuning into the BallotReady Blog for more coverage of state and local level races across the country!

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By Maddy Scott, BallotReady Intern