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Unions rally against 'right-to-work' override in Missouri

Union members are making sure Missouri Republican lawmakers who voted against ‘right-to-work’ earlier this year know that they will have union support during the next election.

Missouri's chapter of the AFL-CIO held a rally and knocked on doors Saturday in Jefferson County ahead of the General Assembly’s veto session next Wednesday. That's when a vote to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a  "right-to-work" bill could be brought to the floor. The measure would bar making union dues a condition of employment.  Currently a business or union can require dues when a majority of workers have voted to organize.

“The reason that we staged (the rally) here in Jefferson County is because we had a lot of legislators from both sides of the aisle support us during session and all through the summer,” said Mike Louis, Missouri AFL-CIO president.

The message, said Louis, is that “labor supports the elected officials who help and support us … You’ve got our back now. We’ll have your back come election time.”

Both state senators and six out of seven state representatives from Jefferson County voted against right-to-work this year. Only one state legislator in the county is a Democrat.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster explains why he's against 'right-to'work' Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 in Arnold, Mo. Koster is running for governor of Missouri in 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Even as union leaders look to Wednesday’s veto session, they also have an eye on what could be Missouri’s next "right-to-work" battleground — the campaign for governor in 2016.

At Saturday’s rally, union leaders said Democratic governors are the reason Missouri isn’t already a right-to-work state. Nixon is a Democrat.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster -- a Democrat running for governor -- spoke at the AFL-CIO rally in Jefferson County.

Most of the Republican candidates have declared their support of "right to work."

“Lt. Gov. Kinder (and) Catherine Hanaway are supportive of ‘right to work,’ I think because they would like to see collective bargaining rolled back to a certain extent,” said Koster, referring to two of his Republican opponents.

Koster said he opposes ‘right to work’ because he believes it would lower wages, adding that "government power should not be used to reduce the wages of any sector of the Missouri economy. Government is there to support good wages and raise the standard of living across the board. ” 

The final Missouri House vote on "right to work" fell 17 short of the number needed for an override, and even supporters aren't sure enough legislators will switch their votes. As a result, proponents of the measure have said a GOP governor would help their cause.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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