Missouri governor Jay Nixon vetoed a controversial right-to-work bill after the state legislature passed it and had nothing nice to say about it. Many Republican states have been working to pass these so-called “right to work” laws to take power away from the labor unions, and then calling it a victory for workers when it’s really a victory for business profits. Since Governor Nixon is a Democrat, though, it’s not too terribly surprising that he would veto such a measure.
For generations, the ability of workers to join together and bargain collectively for fair wages, and training has lifted the living standards of families everywhere both union and non-union.
Our labor laws are woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting workers. The minimum wage, which was a living wage for the first two-thirds of its history, means receiving government assistance and living in squalor these days. We don’t mandate vacation time, maternity leave or sick leave; the Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to define the workweek however they want and require employees to use vacation time to get out of mandated overtime and so forth.
Unions helped to pick up the slack in our labor laws, because something has to be in place that protects workers from exploitation and abuse. The Post-Dispatch reports that Nixon said unions gave American workers a ticket to the middle class, and he’s right. They helped employees negotiate wage and benefits packages that allowed them to actually earn a living. When the unions were broken, workers’ rights began getting trampled, and now they’re all but non-existent.
As the Post-Dispatch correctly points out, right-to-work laws are supposed to stop the unions from collecting dues from non-members. They do that because non-members often benefit from union negotiations anyway, however, these laws do a lot more than that, too. They depress wages, they make working conditions worse, and they make it so an employer can fire you for any reason at all, even one that’s illegal under labor laws, because they don’t have to provide documentation for it.
Missouri lawmakers could override Nixon’s veto with a two-thirds majority in both chambers, during the September veto session. Republicans were quick to condemn Nixon’s actions, according to the Post-Dispatch, with complaints ranging from the mistaken belief that right-to-work laws bring economic growth, to accusing Nixon of putting his own agenda ahead of Missouri workers. Those arguments are typical for Republicans, though, as part of their “We care about Americans, but not really,” mantra.