Missouri voters on Tuesday rejected the Legislature’s decision last year to make Missouri the 28th right-to-work state.
The right-to-work bill — approved by the Legislature and signed into law in February 2017 by then-Gov. Eric Greitens — was overturned in Tuesday’s election with the defeat of Proposition A.
Voters throughout Missouri shot down the law by a 67 to 33 percent margin with 97.8 percent of the results tallied. The measure failed to win the support of the majority of voters in any of the nine Northeast Missouri counties.
The law would have prohibited the forced payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
The statewide petition initiative was placed on the ballot by pro-labor organizations that opposed the right-to-work law. Originally scheduled to be voted on in the November general election, the Missouri Legislature voted to move the referendum to the August ballot.
Union officials across the state celebrated Tuesday’s decision because they believe the right-to-work would have hurt the collective bargaining process and resulted in lower wages for unionized workers.
“We’re thankful that the people got out and voted. The working class people have spoken,” said Bill Tate, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 350 in Hannibal.
Tate said he was not surprised to see the ballot issue shot down by a 2-to-1 margin.
“A lot of people out there are tired of not getting their fair share of working and wages and benefits, and it’s to the point where they were ready to get out there and make a change,” he said.
Tate said union members were particularly concerned that the right-to-work measure could lead to lower wages for workers.
“In a lot of the right-to-work states where it’s already in place, it’s dropped families’ wages right around $8,000 a year,” he said.
Business leaders lamented Tuesday’s decision because they feel the right-to-work law protected workers’ freedoms while putting Missouri businesses in a stronger competitive position.
Larry Craig of Hannibal, a longtime proponent of the right-to-work law, was disappointed with Tuesday’s decision. He feels it’s in Missouri’s best interest to be a right-to-work state.
“Right-to-work has been a priority issue for the Republican Party in the state of Missouri for well over a half-dozen years,” said Craig, chairman of the Marion County Republican Central Committee and former executive director of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce.
“The Republican Legislature passed it every year, and Jay Nixon (the former Democratic governor of Missouri) vetoed it every year — except last year because he wasn’t in office. Greitens signed the bill,” Craig said.
However, the bill never took effect because unions gathered enough signatures on petitions to demand a referendum on the issue.
Craig feels the right-to-work law would have served as an economic development incentive for businesses to come to Missouri.
“Business and industry that wants to come into the state of Missouri — or expand in the state of Missouri — would feel more comfortable doing so rather than having to come in and negotiate with unions,” he said.
If a business or industry is looking to come into Missouri, “the first question they want to know is, ‘Are you a right-to-work state, or are you a union state?’ ” Craig said.
Other states that have passed right-to-work legislation “have had an increase in jobs in their states,” Craig said. “They’ve had growth in business and industry.”
He feels the same would happen in Missouri.
Even though the right-to-work law was shot down in Tuesday’s election, Craig feels the fight to become a right-to-work state is far from over in Missouri.
“What I anticipate will happen is the Legislature will take it up in the next session, and Gov. (Mike) Parson will sign it,” he said. “It’s not going to go away. We need right-to-work in the state of Missouri; although, the union people will disagree with that.”
Unions poured millions of dollars into a campaign to defeat Proposition A.