By Jo Mannies, Beacon Political Reporter
Posted 1:12 pm, Tue., 11.23.10
Gov. Jay Nixon's new round of hefty campaign donations from labor unions -- $150,000 since last Friday -- is prompting lots of speculation among political watchdogs and the press on what might be driving the flurry of union checks.
Some news outlets cite the governor's flyaround tour last Friday in which he announced that he supports a new nuclear plant, which would create union jobs.
That same day, the region's Plumbers and Pipefitters union gave the governor $25,000. On Monday, the Hazelwood-based United Autoworkers, Region 5, gave him $100,000. The Ironworkers union also kicked in $25,000.
But labor sources cite another issue driving the largess to the governor: a possible showdown in the Republican-controlled state Legislature over right to work.
The new Republican leader in the state Senate -- Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter -- announced shortly after his selection that one of his top issues would be the passage of legislation to make Missouri a right-to-work state.
Under right to work, companies and unions are barred from requiring all workers in a union-represented unit to pay union dues as a requirement of employment. Such requirements are known as "closed shops."
Mayer and his allies contend that Missouri has lost jobs, particularly in the auto industry, because businesses have migrated to right-to-work states, such as neighboring Arkansas.
The Missouri AFL-CIO contends that Missouri is losing jobs to Mexico and China -- and that right to work wouldn't change that. (Click here to read the Beacon's story earlier this month on labor's mobilization effort against the GOP push.)
In any case, if the Legislature passed a right-to-work law it would be up to Nixon -- a Democrat seeking re-election in 2012 -- to sign or veto the measure. Since labor is among the Democratic Party's most powerful blocs, the assumption is that Nixon would veto the bill.
The Legislature might seek to skirt Nixon by putting a right-to-work proposal directly on the 2012 ballot. Labor won a similar ballot fight in 1978, but its numbers in the state's workplaces now are about half of what they were 32 years ago.
Retiring U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said in an interview Monday that the 1978 battle over right to work turned out to be "a disaster" for the GOP.
"It wiped out every single Republican from top to bottom," said Bond.
When asked about this year's possible renewal of the fight, Bond replied that Republicans in the state Legislature should reconsider -- and think about what happened in 1978.