Yesterday, August 7, voters in Missouri rejected the state’s new “right-to-work” law by a margin of two to one. Proposition A asked voters whether or not they would like to enact the right-to-work statute that the state legislature passed and former Governor Eric Greitens (R) signed last year. The law would have made it illegal for unions to charge agency fees to workers they represent who choose not to join the union. Agency fees, lower than union dues, are designated to help cover the costs of negotiating employment contracts.
Sympathetic workers and union workers fought the law by gathering about 300,000 signatures (more than double what was required) to put a freeze on the law and let voters decide. Construction workers, ironworkers, and steelworkers knocked on more than 800,000 doors to create awareness and draw voters to the polls.
They even enlisted the help of actor and Missouri native John Goodman who created a radio ad. “The bill will not give you the right to work. It’s being sold as a way to help Missouri workers, but look a little deeper and you’ll see it’s all about corporate greed,” he says.
Though similar right to work laws have passed in Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states, this is the first time such legislation has been overturned by ballot referendum. It is also the first attempt in recent years. Currently, only 8.7% of workers in Missouri are union members, below the national average, but polls show rising support for unions and an uptick in membership.
“Missouri is the latest sign of a true groundswell, and working people are just getting started,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The defeat of this poisonous anti-worker legislation is a victory for all workers across the country. The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Prop. A is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determination. Tonight is the latest act of working people changing a rigged system that for decades has been favoring corporations, the mega wealthy, and the privileged few.”