Organized labor is using a provision in Missouri law that’ll do nothing short of delaying Right-to-Work legislation from being implemented for at least a year.
The group has a document that’s been approved for circulation to acquire the necessary signatures for the issue to be placed before voters. The Right-to-Work measure will weaken the power of organized labor because it prohibits employees from being required to join a union as a condition of employment.
Republicans have long sought to incorporate the legislation into law but have been thwarted by Democratic opposition. Former Governor Jay Nixon vetoed such a measure in 2015.
But once GOP member Eric Greitens was elected governor last November, the Republican super-majority legislature wasted no time in passing a Right-to-Work bill this year. It was the first piece of legislation not related to lawmakers’ pay that Greitens signed into law in early February.
The document approved by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office to be circulated is called a referendum petition. It’s the actual bill the legislature passed attached to a page on which signatures are collected.
Labor organizations such as the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters have coordinating with a host interest groups including the Faith-Labor Alliance, Jobs With Justice, Working America and the Alliance of Retired Americans to craft the petition. Every local union in the state is involved in the process of collecting signatures.
They’ll have until August 28th, the day the law is scheduled to go into effect, to submit the required number of signatures. That figure is roughly 100,000, and by law would have to amount to 5% of votes cast in the last governor’s election in two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts.
United Food and Commercial Workforce (UFCW) Local 655 hosted one of more than 50 drive-thru signups to be held around the state Saturday. The union’s Collin Reischman is confident the necessary signatures will be quickly gathered.
“We’re going to turn in probably a lot more than the law requires” said Reischman. “We’re currently shooting to turn in two-to-three times as many as the law requires.”
Once the signatures are collected, they are examined by the Secretary of State’s office to determine their validity. Reischman says the unions have their own attorneys who are assessing the signatures, and is very confident few will be tossed out.
Referendum petitions allow for measures passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor to go to a public vote before they go into effect. A yes vote reaffirms the law, while a no vote is a rejection of it.
The petitions have only been successfully used 26 times in the past. In all but two instances, voters discarded laws passed by the legislature. Reischman says he has no doubt the Right-to-Work law will be soundly rejected by voters.
“I am actually supremely confident that if this is on the ballot, it will lose. I have no doubt of that. I have seen polling. I’ve seen other information that suggests that even non-union workers understand that this drives down their quality of life as well.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has been a fierce supporter of the Right-to-Work legislation. Dan Mehan, the organization President and CEO, says there’ll be a concerted effort from its side to reach out to the public if there’s a vote on the legislation.
“There would be a very highly spirited campaign from our side, making sure voters knew exactly what they were voting on” said Mehan. “And we don’t need to go back to the days of big union bosses trying to tell people what to do.”
Mehan also notes the legislation took many years of hard work on the part of its backers to not receive a robust representation before any public vote. “This has been a long time coming, and we’re not going to just let it be frittered away.”