Labor leaders in Missouri’s public and private sectors say the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest ruling curbing public-employee unions doesn’t appear to have a direct impact in Missouri.
The court ruled 5-4 today that public-employee unions cannot collect fees or dues from workers who decline to join the union. But in Missouri, labor leaders say public-employee unions in the state already must get their members to voluntarily pay dues.
However, state AFL-CIO president Mike Louis says the high court’s decision will be a campaign issue anyway as Missouri unions seek to defeat the right-to-work proposal on the August ballot, known as Proposition A.
"Workers are on the rise, and the Supreme Court can't stop us,'' Louis said. "At a time when our democracy and economy are rigged to overwhelmingly favor the wealthy, America needs unions now more than ever so our middle class can thrive."
The court ruling does not apply to private-sector unions, which are the ones in Missouri most affected by the August battle over Proposition A. Passage would make Missouri a right-to-work state.
Under right to work – which unions call “right to work for less” – employers and unions would be barred from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees, regardless of whether the worker joins the union. Unions say the fees pay for their representation; workers already can ask that they be exempted from paying the portion of their dues that could be allocated for political spending.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry praised the Supreme Court decision and also plans to use the ruling in its campaign in favor of Proposition A.
"We agree with the court that employees should not be forced to subsidize an organization they may not want to support,” said chamber chief executive Dan Mehan. “While today's ruling applies to public-employee unions, Missourians have the opportunity on Aug. 7 to extend this same protection to private businesses across the state.”
Mark Jones, political director for the Missouri NEA – which represents many of the state’s teachers – said its lawyers are examining the court decision just to make sure that it does not apply to Missouri educators.
The teachers’ group already faces pressure from a new state law that imposes more restrictions on most public-sector unions. The new law will require teachers associations in each school district to get authorization every three years from members to represent them. The law also mandates that those groups get annual permission from each teacher to have dues deducted from their paychecks. Previously, the permission was sought soon after they were hired.
The new state law does not apply to first-responder unions, such as the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis police group, said its lawyers are reviewing the Supreme Court decision to see how it might affect local police officers.