When it comes to labor reforms, the dance card is filling up fast in the Missouri legislature. First the Legislature passed Right to Work, protecting the rights of workers to join, or not join, a union. Hot on its heels came project labor agreement (PLA) and prevailing wage reform legislation, which would protect taxpayers as well as countless workers in the construction industry. Missouri is now racing Wisconsin to be the first to pass such a reform package this calendar year.
Also coursing through the state House and Senate, however, are two important measures that would protect government employees as well. My former colleague John Wright wrote at length about the substance of the first measure, dealing with recertification votes and transparency in government unions. That basket of reforms will likely also include common-sense financial transparency requirements for government unions as well, consistent with disclosures private unions already file. Taken in total, that worker empowerment proposal is a game changer on its own.
The second measure, Paycheck Protection, also deserves attention from good governance supporters. Rather than forcing workers to opt out of a union, Paycheck Protection flips the presumption by allowing employees to opt-in to a union instead. It's sort of like a mini-recertification vote; if an employee wants the union to represent her, she can confirm her support and continue the representation, or do nothing and keep her money. Either way, it's the employee that's empowered, not organized labor.
This year's government union reform proposals are superior to versions that were proposed in previous years, in no small part because they don't carve the rights of first responders from the bill. Why those rights have been carved away in the past is a subject of debate, but dealing strictly with the policy itself, passing a government reform bill that doesn't protect first responders would be disappointing. First responders should be able to see what their union is spending money on, to keep or drop a union that represents them, and to retain or give the money in their paychecks that may currently underwrite a union's activities. That this year's law includes these workers deserves praise. I never understood why first responders would be deserving of fewer rights.
If these reforms are enacted, Missouri workers will have a lot to be excited about in the months and years ahead.