It’s no secret that the American Legislative Education Committee (ALEC), the corporatist front group owned in large part by the billionaire Koch brothers and used to enact their political preferences into law, is really big on right-to-work (RTW) legislation. ALEC is not alone in promoting RTW – the Chamber of Commerce; ALEC’s sister organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP); along with numerous rightwing groups have also made RTW their cause du jour, but ALEC has had a particularly important role. In fact, several past efforts to enact RTW bills in Missouri adhered closely to he pattern of ALEC model legislation. Those bills – so far – have failed to gain sufficient traction to pass.
But never fear – RTW is still a priority. House speaker, Tim Jones recently, proclaimed that “we’re going to make Missouri the 25th right-to-work state.” The only thing that has changed is the strategy, as Peter Kinder explained to the ALEC overlords last month:
Earlier this month, Republican Lt. Governor Peter Kinder told an audience at the national American Legislative Exchange Council convention in Chicago that “Right to Work” (RTW) didn’t have the legs to pass through Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature, and that the matter would likely be placed on the ballot for the next general election.
Sounds grim. RTW is not just one more effort to chip away at the ability of unions to function effectively, it’s a chain saw that can be used to slice away huge chunks of union membership.The word is that Missouri unions are already building up their war chests in anticipation of a nasty fight:
The 1978 fight pales in comparison to what the fight would cost both sides now,” Missouri AFL-CIO President, Hugh McVey, told The Missouri Times. “We won big last time and the numbers kind of speak to that, but I don’t know that we’d win like that this time. Although I do still think we would win.”
At a meeting of the Missouri Progressive Action Group (MOPAG) last Saturday, however, Democratic Rep. Bill Otto had a different perspective, all but daring the Republicans to put RTW on the ballot. His argument touched on the issue of turnout during midterm elections. Many of us believe that the reason Missouri sent such a large population of Tea Party fence posts (as in “dumb as a fence post”) to Washington in 2010, and voted for things like the anti-Obamacare Prop. C had more to do with small overall turnout and over-excited Tea Partiers than the real druthers of less extreme Missourians. One thing a RTW ballot initiative could do, if state Democrats are able to act quickly and smartly – a big if, I know – would be to energize the Democratic base. I don’t know about you, but I’ll wait and see. I’ll also keep my fingers crossed.