Subscribe for 99 cents
Vote No on Prop A post-election party

Chet Bogus and Jane Busby dance in celebration as results are announced during a post-election gathering of union members involved in the Vote No on Prop A campaign at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 in St. Louis Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. The proposition, which was defeated, would have added Missouri to the list of states with"right to work" labor laws. Photo by Sid Hastings

JEFFERSON CITY • A Springfield Republican wants to again make Missouri a “right to work” state — even after two-thirds of voters in August shot down the state’s law.

State Sen.-elect Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, filed the legislation this month in preparation for the Legislature’s annual session, which starts in January. Republicans overwhelmingly control both the state House and Senate.

In 2017, lawmakers approved similar legislation, which bans union dues as a condition of employment. But unions and allies struck back, submitting more than 300,000 signatures to force a referendum on the law.

In August, nearly two-thirds of voters across the state rejected the proposal, dealing a blow to one of former Gov. Eric Greitens’ crowning achievements.

It is unclear how much attention Burlison’s proposal will get during the coming legislative session. Some Republicans have voiced concern about pushing a measure rejected by so many voters.

Burlison, who served in the House from 2009 through 2016, said a vote of the people should not infringe on one’s freedom of association.

“We would never put people’s religious freedom on the ballot, or free speech on the ballot,” Burlison said. “This is a right of association that should not be put to a vote.”

Proponents of right-to-work proposals say states that allow mandatory union dues hamstring economic development. Opponents say the laws restrict the bargaining power of workers, tilting the scales toward management.

Burlison said he could not predict how far his measure would go in the coming session, but he said he has told GOP leadership the bill’s passage is one of his priorities.

“I campaigned on this issue,” Burlison said. It’s a “priority of not just myself, but people in my area.”

Burlison represents Christian County, which was one of about 15 counties that backed right to work in August.

He also represents outlying parts of Greene County, where Springfield is located. Fifty-seven percent of Greene County voters rejected right to work.

The vote margins were not as close in the St. Louis area, where several counties saw more than three-fourths of voters reject right to work.

The legislation is Senate Bill 63.

Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.