Even though Missouri’s Republican legislature and governor have passed a right-to-work measure into law at lightning fast speed, organized labor is responding.
Unions and like-minded interest groups have decided their best path forward is to get the legislation before a public vote.
They could do so either through an initiative petition which would seek a constitutional amendment to bar right to work laws in Missouri, or through a ballot referendum to overturn the law itself.
Pat White with the St. Louis Labor Council says organizers haven’t decided which course of action to take.
“You can file them both, and quite frankly you could put them both on the ballot if you wanted to” said White. “We probably wouldn’t do that. But those our options as of now”
Both scenarios will require upwards of 100,000 valid signatures to reach the ballot. An initiative petition would need the signatures of 8 percent of voters in the last election, which will amount to around 160,000.
They can be obtained in any of six of the eight congressional districts in the state. A ballot referendum would require signatures of 5 percent, totaling about 60,000 from congressional districts. White says organizers believe they’ll easily reach either threshold.
If they successfully get a referendum onto the ballot, the right-to-work statute itself will be delayed from going into effect until after voters weigh-in during the November 2018 election.
As passed and signed into law, it would become effective in late August of this year. A ballot referendum is sometimes referred to as a “citizen’s veto”.
Labor leaders from around the state are organizing the effort to place right-to-work before voters. Unions such as the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters are coordinating with a host labor interest groups including the Faith-Labor Alliance, Jobs With Justice, Working America and the Alliance of Retired Americans. White says there’s no shortage of motivation among participants.
“In a state where we’ve got schools that are unaccredited, a governor’s wife was held up at gun point, we’ve got the 50th worst paid state government employees, and one of the first bills our governor signs is something handcuffing 8-10 percent of the workforce in Missouri. So ya, it’s a big deal for us.”
The right-to-work law prohibits employees’ form being required to join a union as a condition of employment. So far, organizers have opted against taking court action against the law.
Passing right-to-work legislation is a major accomplishment for Republicans, who have dominated the legislature for years. Previous attempts have been thwarted by Democratic opposition. Former Governor Jay Nixon vetoed such a measure in 2015.