In the April 9 Turner Report, I wrote about the efforts of southwest Missouri legislators to destroy labor unions in the state. Three bills, all sponsored by Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, and co-sponsored by Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, Ed Emery, R-Lamar, and Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, would have crippled unions in this state and in the pro-business flurry of legislation the General Assembly passed this year, the passage of these bills would have not have come as much of a surprise. What does come as a surprise is who a St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist says is responsible for stopping those bills...pro-business Governor Matt Blunt.
House Bill 876 would have required that unions disclose the following information: Assets, including cash, accounts receivable, loans receivable, U. S. Treasury securities, investments, and other assets; liabilities including accounts payable, loans payable, mortgages, and other liabilities; cash receipts from sources including dues, fees, sales, interest, rent, and dividends; cash disbursements including negotiation, administration, organization, lobbying, political, benefits, overhead, gifts and contributions, membership status including active, inactive, associate, apprentice, retired, and others.
As I said on April 9, that bill smacked of 1950s McCarthyism.
On House Bill 877, the area legislators mentioned above were joined by Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, as a co-sponsor. That bill would have established "employee rights" according to the wording on the bill. It would have prohibited any requirements that people join unions, pay dues or fees to unions, and would eliminate any current agreements between unions and employers that violate those rights. This back-door approach would not only have made Missouri a right-to-work state (which does a lot for employers and not much for workers), but it would have enabled employers to get rid of contracts they have already signed, but do not like.
House Bill 878 would have required that no money be spent on political activities unless it comes "from a fund established for that purpose." As I said on April 9, under the provisions of that bill, unions would be required to notify members that they do not have to contribute and that nothing will happen to them if they do not. Of course, businesses would have been allowed to continue to contribute to any politicians or political causes they want to, especially to elected officials who continue to add to the businesses' profits by sponsoring this type of legislation.
Columnist Jo Mannies in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote: "State Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, a membership recruiter for Associated Industries, touched off a miniexplosion in labor circles when he submitted a right-to-work bill on March 30, right before the filing deadline. At labor's behest, Blunt's office quietly fired off a statement the next day - many news outlets didn't get it unless they inquired about it - that declared the governor would veto such a bill should the Legislature approve it. Hunter's action, and Blunt's swift response, electrified state labor leaders. Rank-and-file union activists roamed the Capitol's halls, lobbying against the measure while singing the governor's praises. Hunter's bill never made it to the House floor. A spokeswoman with Associated Industries said Friday that the group backed the bill and hoped to see supportive legislators resurrect the idea in future sessions."
Despite their love for Governor Blunt, no one should be surprised if Hunter and his fellow area legislators don't revive the bill in 2006. Hopefully, the governor's response will be the same if that happens.