JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- With less than a week before the opening session of the Missouri General Assembly, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce announced their legislative priorities.
Among their wish-list - which includes reforming the state's worker's compensation system, limiting the kinds of lawsuits employees can make against employers, and reducing income taxes for employers - the Chamber has called on the legislature to pass a "right to work" policy, which would ban union membership from being a condition of employment.
"This issue is framed as 'business v. labor,' but that is not the case," Missouri Chamber President Daniel P. Mehan said. "Frankly, it is an issue between labor and employees. Bottom line, employees should be given the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to be part of a union. Right to Work gives them that right."
Prior to their call, incoming House Speaker Tim Jones, who himself has been a major proponent of right-to-work, said he is still in favor of the policy, but was unsure that it was a politically realistic proposal.
"Forcing every single member of my caucus to vote on an issue which many of them feel conflicted on - that's just not going to be my leadership style," he said during an interview last month.
Instead, Jones is supportive of other ways to get at the goal of ultimately limiting union influence, including legislation that would prevent labor unions from deducting dues from members' paychecks, which he called the "ultimate goal of right-to-work."
Sean Soendker Nicholson, executive director of Progress Missouri - a progressive advocacy group - said in a statement that the policies represent "political power grabs," and urged Republicans to focus on "on creating jobs and investing in our future - not nonsense like this."
The policy will likely face a lively debate in the General Assembly. Many members of the conservative wing of the party wholeheartedly support the policy, while more moderates oppose it. Republicans - with 109 votes in the House - can not afford to lose any of them if they want to override a certain veto by Gov. Jay Nixon.