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Gov. Eric Greitens ceremonially signs right-to-work legislation into law at a vacant Springfield plant.
Gov. Eric Greitens ceremonially signs right-to-work legislation into law at a vacant Springfield plant.

Greitens signs right-to-work bill in Springfield

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Surrounded by a mix of lawmakers, businesspeople and union representatives, Gov. Eric Greitens this morning ceremonially signed right-to-work legislation into law at a vacant warehouse in Springfield.

“We’ve won a great victory today,” Greitens said. “Missouri’s sending a message to the world and that is Missouri is open for business.”

Not all on hand agreed.

Inside the shuttered Amelex plant at 445 S. Ingram Mill Road, Greitens continued to speak as protestors shouted, “Right-to-work. Wrong for us.”

Speaking to the choice of the empty warehouse as the setting, the governor said, “There’s no stronger evidence than what you see around us.” He pointed to equipment still standing in the metal fabrication shop, indicating the vacant plant was a casualty of Missouri not becoming a right-to-work state sooner.

“This scene is far too familiar,” he said, prompting one protestor to yell, “Staged.”

The signed legislation — Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Dan Brown, R-Rolla — bars employers from requiring employees to “become, remain or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization or pay dues required of labor organization members as a condition of employment.”

Two previous right-to-work bills passed by the Missouri General Assembly failed to become law after vetoes by former Gov. Jay Nixon. Former Springfield Rep. Eric Burlison, who championed right-to-work legislation when in office, attended the ceremony this morning.

Burlison said work he and other legislators have done for years paved the way for Missouri to become the 28th right-to-work state.

“All that work we did made the difference,” he said, noting previously, lawmakers were afraid to stand up to unions and propose right-to-work legislation. “Once you take away fear from the equation, people make the right decision.”

Other attendees included Phil Melugin of Phoenix Home Care; Rep. Lynn Morris; Matt Morrow of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; John Wanamaker of BKD LLP; Mayor Pro Tem Ken McClure; Ryan Mooney of the chamber; Cliff Davis of Ozarks Technical Community College; Kim Inman of the Missouri Association of Manufacturers; John Jungmann of Springfield Public Schools; and Kevin Ausburn of SMC Packaging Group.

In the recent Springfield Business Journal article, “Legislators go back to the grind,” Morrow said becoming a right-to-work state would make Missouri more competitive. Opponents have said right-to-work laws lessen the bargaining power of unions.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry applauded the bill’s approval.

“We’ve heard from site selectors that Missouri has been missing out on at least 40 percent of our job growth opportunities because of our status as a non-right-to-work state,” state chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan said in a video posted online. “In time, I think even the people who opposed this change will come to appreciate how it helped provide better jobs for Missouri workers.”

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