Political info for those
interested in improving
Missouri Employment Laws
I will render harsh opinions herein (you’ve been warned!), but I mean well, and I desire better worker protections, regardless of political party in power.
For some specific examples of how bad the employment laws are in Missouri, please see my article called The Sorry State of our Employment Protections.
Some people read that “Sorry State” article and get quite upset, because that article destroys a lot of misconceptions about what kind of employment protections we have and don’t have. Republicans and Democrats alike get equally upset when their eyes get opened.
Background about the political landscape in Missouri, and its likely effect on our employment protections
Poor employment protections
under “conservative” Democratic control
Republicans didn’t create this Sorry State; Democrats did. For about 50 years or so, until 2002, Democrats controlled the Missouri Legislature, and those Democrats are responsible for many of the examples of the Sorry State of our Employment Protections. Unfortunately for Missouri workers, our legislature has always prided itself on being “conservative”. In the balance of power between employees and businesses, businesses almost always win in the Missouri Legislature.
Now even more conservative
Republicans control things
The Missouri Legislature was very “conservative” under Democratic control, and now that we have Republican control we are even more conservative. Conservative voters (except perhaps the far right wing) should have been reasonably happy with Democratic control in Missouri, given that very little progressive or “liberal” legislation has ever come out of the Missouri legislature. But now that Republican right wingers run things, we will not see any meaningful improvements in our employment laws.
Improvement will only come from
voting for more progressive Democrats
Merely electing Democrats will not fix the employment laws, because Democrats got us into this mess. We must elect candidates who are progressive on the employment issues that mean something to people.
It’s a fact of political life, however, that Democratic legislators tend to be much more open to improving protections for the working people than are Republican legislators. Why is that so? Because businesses donate more money to Republicans, and those businesses demand votes against improved employment laws. Business also donate to Democrats, though, and such donations have probably played a key role in causing Democrats to miss their opportunity to enact some important employment law improvements in the recent past.
But, generally speaking, we are much more likely to get improvement if we vote Democratic than if we vote Republican. Democrats are not as philosophically opposed to improving our employment laws, and Democrats get less money from anti-employee interest groups.
Remember also that the Governor chooses judges when vacancies occur.
A vote for a Republican is a vote
against improving the employment laws,
because the party leadership is too right wing
In today’s radical political climate, I feel quite confident that if we vote for Republicans, we are voting against improvements in our employment laws. There may be exceptions among some “moderate” Republicans. However, those moderates must vote with their radical anti-employee leadership or else they will be punished by not getting any of their own pet bills passed. So a vote for a Republican will most likely be a vote against improving our employment laws.
Those who do not study politics have the misconception that legislators always vote their conscience. That’s just plain not how things work in real life. Legislators must often follow the dictates of their party leadership on important matters, or else the party leadership will destroy the legislator’s chances of getting anything passed, and might even withdraw party financial support for the legislator’s re-election bid (giving the support to his opponent in the primary, for example).
Using such steps as those, the very conservative Republican Party leadership will ensure that the Republican legislators do not become too “moderate”. I’m sorry if you think I am over-stating my case, but this is how things really work in the legislature. By the way, things tend to work similarly among the Democrats, but the Democrats are more likely to support progressive laws and so I don’t get as upset.
You might be interested in what your National-level Republican Legislators are up to in trying to weaken our right to overtime pay. See Tim Rants about proposed changes to overtime laws.
but we need more lawyers in the legislature
We have a dramatic misconception that “most” of our legislators are lawyers. In fact, only about 10% of Missouri Legislators are lawyers.
Dairy farmers (and other farmers) tend to make our laws in Missouri. Farmers are employers, whether they are Democrat or Republican. I suspect that farmers don’t want to see improved employment protections, because that might possibly be against their own personal interests. I would like to see fewer farmers in the legislature, because I think that would make for a more progressive body of employment laws.
Progressiveness in society tends to flow from education, whether formal education or informal learning. We can be quite progressive without college degrees, if we have learned things and read diverse ideas and thought deeply about things. Give me a thoughtful and educated legislator (Republican or Democrat) any day over a radical who regurgitates the propaganda and misinformation he hears on radio and TV.
Here’s how lawyers benefit the legislative process:
- Lawyers can better predict the consequences of the words used in laws than laymen can, from their experience interpreting the laws and arguing about the meaning of laws in front of judges. Judges will ultimately be interpreting the laws, not the legislators.
- Lawyers tend to be well educated and well read, and might be more moderate legislators, less prone to being radicals on one side or the other. Lawyers are probably safer bets for moderation, generally speaking, because of their experience seeing both sides of a story. However, there are a few Republican and Democrat lawyers in the Missouri legislature today who would qualify as being fairly well extremists. I won’t name those lawyers here.
- Lawyers have been exposed to many diverse segments of society, through their law practices, and are often in a good position to predict the consequences of laws for diverse groups. Contrast that with farmers, whose world might be much more limited in terms of their depth of experience with diverse segments of society. “The law is into everything” (from the movie “The Devil’s Advocate”, where the Al Pacino character was the devil who appeared on earth as a lawyer because, he said, “The law is into everything”). Lawyers are exposed to everything, and we learn a lot of detail about many diverse areas of business and society.
- Lawyers tend to be experienced negotiators over language issues, from long experience arguing about language and contracts. The work of legislators is all about negotiating over language.
- Depending on your political side of the coin, a lawyer-legislator can be a more powerful advocate for your issue, and write better laws to support your cause.
- Finally, when lawyers are in session with the legislature, they are not working as lawyers, and maybe we can avoid some lawsuits. Lots of people would like to see that happen.
How YOU can make a difference
- To potentially make a difference, merely VOTE for candidates who are likely to support improving our employment protections. Democrats are your best bet, but if you can’t stand that, then vote for moderate Republicans. Avoid so-called “conservative” Republicans because they are likely to be too radical or too beholden to businesses to vote for improved employment protections.
- To greatly improve your chances of making a difference, CONTRIBUTE MONEY to the candidates who are running for Missouri legislative seats. Missouri legislative candidates tend overwhelmingly to be ordinary middle class working people or persons of modest means. It’s not like the national legislators, where they tend to be more wealthy before they decide to run. Missouri politicians are downright poor in many instances. They truly need and rely upon our donations. Give what you can to candidates you can tolerate. Your small contribution can make a significant difference, in part because the more people who contribute the more the candidate can show that he is gaining support, and this creates momentum leading to more contributions, and the candidate becomes considerably stronger.
Article written by | Tim Willoughby
Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City.
He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association.
Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City.
He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.