Missouri’s right to work law passed by state lawmakers and signed by Governor Greitens in February has effectively been suspended. The statute which would have normally taken hold Monday has been delayed by union efforts to have it go to a public vote.
The labor organizations met a deadline to present required petition signatures to the secretary of state’s office for the law to be placed on the ballot. It won’t be known if there’s a sufficient number of valid signatures until the secretary of state completes tabulations of the petitions and announces results in early February.
It’s generally assumed the union are in good shape since they submitted more than three times the required number of signatures for verification.
The public vote being sought is known as a ballot referendum, which has taken place 26 times since 1914, the last time in 1982. The issue at that time was whether maximum weight and length of large trucks would be increased. The law was rejected by voters.
The secretary of state’s office provided Missourinet with an electronic image of a 1982 newspaper story which reported that then Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick had determined the truck law was suspended after petition signatures were filed.
A lawsuit to block the current ballot referendum by pro right to work interests was rejected by an appeals court. The state Supreme Court could still choose to take up the case, but has not indicated its intentions. The high bench announced a full slate of cases last week which did not include the right to work litigation. Its next scheduled announcement is in October.
The success so far of the union effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by pro right to work organizations with deep pockets. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has vowed to mount a full throated campaign to support the law. Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan says he’s prepared for a lengthy process. “It looks like we will be heading into some political campaign to defend that,” said Mehan.
Meanwhile, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation sent the second in a series of mailers Monday defending the law. The mailer (featured above) is part of the organization’s six-figure effort which includes digital video and display ads, direct mail, events, door-to-door canvassing, and phone banking.
Right to work supporters with connections to dark money have also come to the table. Two nonprofits donated $600,000 to political action committees working to protect the statute. As non-profits that are classified 501(c)(4) entities, the organizations don’t have to report their donors.
National labor organizations are also expected to donate heavily to union attempts to promote the ballot referendum. The Chamber’s Mehan thinks the amount of money spent on both sides of the issue will be staggering. “I think the total cost of this campaign for either side will be upwards of $10 million and more.”
Missourians rejected a right to work ballot proposal in 1978, with 60% casting no votes.