Pointless attacks on unions in Kansas, Missouri
The Kansas City Star
In packed hearing rooms where tempers run short and accusations fly, the Missouri and Kansas legislatures are consumed with debates on bills intended to weaken unions.
This expenditure of energy at first seems puzzling. Neither private- nor public-sector unions are especially powerful in either state. Kansas already is a “right-to-work” state, meaning non-union workers are entitled to all the benefits of union representation, as required by the federal Taft-Hartley Act, but they need not pay any union dues.
Lawmakers could better spend their time working on health care, education or other truly significant issues. Instead, key lawmakers and leaders are preoccupied with bills seeking to make Missouri a right-to-work state, and in both states to forbid unions to automatically deduct dues from paychecks, even if union members request it.
The unnecessary attacks on unions demonstrate how susceptible state legislatures are to outside forces.
Leaders from several groups that promote “free market” policies are in Jefferson City this week to push for a right to work law. The groups include the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Tax Limitation Committee.
Every anti-union law passed is a jewel in the crown for these groups, and Republican lawmakers are happy to oblige.
Even some of the language of the anti-union bills comes from outside. The American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded group that pushes “model” legislation, drafted parts of the anti-union bills being considered in both states.
Lawmakers and governors talk often about “Missouri solutions” and “Kansas solutions.” But overly aggressive unions aren’t Missouri or Kansas problems. Legislators have enough divisive issues on their plates without letting outside groups embroil them in a fight with unions.