By TIM ROWDEN, Editor, St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune
Jefferson City, MO – Mark Janus, the former Illinois state employee behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Janus v. AFSCME decision, was in Missouri last week testifying in favor of a “paycheck deception” bill sponsored by union-hating Missouri State Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis).
Onder’s bill that seeks to further complicate the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus ruling, which bars public employee unions from requiring non-members pay a fair share fee– to cover the union’s costs of contract negotiations and representation.
Senate Bill 701 (SB 701) would pile on to the Janus ruling by requiring public employees, such as teachers, to submit specific forms each year to demonstrate that they understand their rights not to pay union dues or fair share fees and are voluntarily authorizing that part of their paycheck go toward union dues and contributions. Employers could face fines of $500 per violation if they fail to use the forms. The House version of the bill, House Bill 2341.
STRIPPING AWAY WORKERS’ RIGHTS
Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said the bill was another example of out-of-state corporate interests pulling the strings of the Missouri Legislature to strip away workers’ rights.
“Once again, the Missouri Legislature is focusing their efforts to strip away the rights of workers,” Louis said. “Paycheck deception (House Bill 2341) and (Senate Bill 701) is a billed backed by greedy CEOs and extreme out-of-state interest groups that want to take the rights of workers to choose what they do with the money they earn.
“These out-of-state and corporate funded groups are the same that tried to force the government overreach of ‘right-to-work’ on workers,” Louis said, referencing the ill-fated “right-to-work” law passed by the Republican-majority Missouri Legislature and signed by then-governor Eric Greitens in 2016 and overwhelmingly repealed by Missouri voters in 2018.
“Paycheck deception laws take away the right of union members and associations to use payroll deduction for payment of union dues by creating burdensome logistic hurdles that interfere with how dues and voluntary contributions are collected,” Louis said. “Public and private sector employers use payroll deduction because it is the most efficient, transparent, and cost-effective method for employees to send dues and voluntary contributions.”
SEEKS TO MODIFY LAW RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL
At its core, SB 701 seeks to modify a 2018 Missouri law (HB 1413), also championed by Onder, that required most public-sector union members to give annual consent before union dues or political contributions could be withheld from their paychecks. St. Louis County Circuit Judge Joseph Walsh placed an injunction on enforcement of HB1413 in January on the grounds that it violated workers’ free speech rights and was unconstitutional.
Testifying against the measure, Clark Brown, legislative director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) illustrated the burden the SB 701 would place on unions with a form reauthorizing donations to the United Way that he forgot to submit on time despite wanting to continue his support.
Brown said the people behind the bill know making employees reauthorize their union contributions every year could lead some to unintentionally drop out.
BACKED BY FAR-RIGHT UNION BUSTERS
Janus, who took his now infamous case to the Supreme Court with pro bono attorneys from the National Right-to-Work Foundation, was joined testifying in support of SB 701 by a witness from the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an affiliate of the States Policy Network (SPN) – a sister organization to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – who spoke in favor of the bill, alongside groups such as Americans for Prosperity (AFP ) – the Koch-funded pro- “right-to-work” advocacy group – and the equally far-right, anti-union Missouri Century Foundation.
“Each year, the National Right to Work Committee spends millions of dollars to push members of state legislatures to enact anti-union ‘right-to-work’ bills, paycheck deception proposals and other anti-worker initiatives,” Louis said. “This continued government overreach into workers’ lives is unacceptable. We must join forces to stop it.”