Why does Missouri need Right to Work? Why are there 25 other states with Right to Work laws? How is this going to help us get more industry?

Why does Missouri need Right to Work? Why are there 25 other states with Right to Work laws? How is this going to help us get more industry?

These are some of the questions I have been getting about the Right to Work bill passed by the Legislature and vetoed by the governor.

I moved to this great state in 1964 right after graduating from high school in Collinsville, Ill., a St. Louis suburb. At that time, St. Louis had a population of more than a million and tens of thousands of auto manufacturing jobs. Now, the city has less than a quarter million residents. The auto industry is all but gone.

The Joplin regional area had well over 100,000 residents. It was blessed with big industry and a lot of jobs. There were more than 3,000 people working at Vickers, a hydraulic pump manufacturer. Nearly 4,000 were at B.F. Goodrich in Miami. Eagle Picher had machine shops with 2,000 workers and several thousand more in battery divisions. Every town in the area had at least two or three major employers with at least several hundred workers.

What happened? Where did our industrial base go? In all fairness, the clothing and shoe companies moved offshore to compete with cheaper imported articles.

Heavy manufacturers moved their facilities to Right to Work states. Vickers took a short hike south to Arkansas. B.F. Goodrich went to Alabama. Our foundries and machine shops closed their doors or moved to Arkansas. Plants in Neosho and other places downsized to a fraction of their original selves or turned into buildings.

Vocational schools that we used to depend on to train our workers closed because there no longer were skilled jobs to go to. Our graduates move to Right to Work state where good jobs await.

In 1978, when Missouri voters turned down Right to Work at the ballot, nearly 37 percent of the workforce was unionized. Today, unions barely represent 8 percent.

Last year, Missouri unions lost 20,000 workers, while Oklahoma unions grew by 24,000. Unions in Right to Work states grow their numbers simply because there is industrial growth.

Right to Work laws don’t do away with unions. They simply give the worker a choice of joining a union, joining a competing union or not joining at all. It’s not just a coincidence that big industry chooses to locate in Right to Work states.

One of the main concerns that Chambers of Commerce voice is that RTW is, if not the first criteria, one of the deciding factors for location of new industrial centers. RTW helps guarantee that there won’t be slowdowns or work stoppages for union negotiations. That’s the reason that the industrial base in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois have disappeared.

In just the last few years, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana have chosen to look to the future and encourage growth by passing RTW. We can do the same thing here in Missouri. Just imagine what a few thousand jobs would do for our area. Now, imagine that happening all over the state.

Funding problems for education, social services and transportation would disappear with new taxes. Missouri’s teachers and social workers are some of the lowest paid in the nation. Our population exodus would cease and cities and towns start to grow again. Local merchants and small businesses would prosper.

Missouri has the best in roads, rail, airports, river transportation and recreational opportunities to go with a willing and able workforce. It’s time to become the 26th Right to Work state.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Missouri House of Representatives.