By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ahead of more legislative effort for a push for Missouri to become a right-to-work state, the Southwest Missouri Democrats put on an informational breakfast Saturday for the public in Joplin.
Several right-to-work bills have been introduced this session of the Missouri General Assembly by Republican members, who have a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. If approved, the state’s voters would be asked to make Missouri the 25th state to adopt right-to-work status. These measures were under debate earlier this month before the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee.
Jim Kabell, a representative of Teamsters Local 245 in Springfield, was one of the morning’s featured speakers.
“This is long-term bad for Missouri workers,” Kabell said of the measure aimed at barring required payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
“It won’t be immediate and you won’t see wages drop off the table the day after, but the impact will be residual. At a time we are trying to move out of a recession, this would be a giant step backward and it will cost us jobs.”
Nearly 35 attendees at the event asked questions of Kabell, Archie Robbins, of Allied Industrial Workers; and Stacey Salmon, of Laborers International Union of North America. Jordan Overstreet, executive director of Southwest Missouri Democrats, said the event was put on to help let Joplin residents know what a right-to-work passage would mean.
“This is about taking the voice of the workers away by weakening unions,” Overstreet said. “There are a lot of folks (in the Legislature) that feel that this can be railroaded through and that they can get enough distance away from if it goes bad.”
Overstreet said if the Legislature puts the question on a special election ballot, it most likely would go to the people in November 2013. Kabell said that election would cost the state’s taxpayers nearly $7 million.
“This is getting pushed because it is an off-election year,” Kabell said. “There isn’t anything else on the ballot, but the election would be primarily for this issue. How is that fair, to tell the taxpayers to foot the bill for this and then sell their industries out?”
Jim Haight, of Neosho, a former U.S. Postal Service union member, was among those who attended the breakfast at the Joplin Community Center at 110 S. Main St. He said he opposed the measure the last time the debate got traction in the General Assembly.
“This was pushed hard in 1978, and it wasn’t good then, either,” Haight said. “It is encouraging to see this many people show up and take a true interest in what is going on in the state and a potentially dangerous situation.”
For Kabell, the attendance is something that he hopes will gain momentum locally.
“It’s going to take people going out to stir up support against this,” Kabell said. “If you go out and start to stir, you’ll get rid of the that dirt, which in this case is a danger to all Missouri workers.”