August 15th 2018

In a tremendous victory for organized labor, voters in Missouri last week rejected a so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law.

The margin of victory for the union side was 2-to-1.

RTW laws prevent unions from charging nonmembers their fair share for the services unions are required by law to provide.

In the run-up to the Missouri vote, union members knocked on 800,000 doors, made over a million phone calls and talked to people on more than 1,000 different job sites, according to Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis.

“Thousands of hardworking men and women in Missouri talked to their neighbors, friends and co-workers,” he said.

“We owe them this victory.”

The Missouri RTW law was passed in 2017 by the Republican-dominated state legislature.

Unions succeeded in blocking it while they collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot for a citizens’ referendum.

The result, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “is a historic win.”

“I think this will build momentum and send a message to all legislators that if you vote against the people, go against the will of the vast majority of working Americans, it’s going to cost you,” he added.

It was the first time since 2011 that RTW legislation had made it onto any state’s ballot, and the results then, in Ohio, were strikingly similar, with 62 percent of voters rejecting the law.

In one of the savviest moves of the “no” campaign in Missouri, actor and Missouri native John Goodman–first on a radio ad aired across the state, and then with a robo-call on Election Day–made plain the truth with blunt effectiveness.

“The name’s deceiving: the bill will not give you the right to work. Instead, it gives big business and out-of-state corporations the right to pay you less than they do now … It’s being sold as a way to help Missouri workers,” Goodman continued, “but look a little deeper, and you’ll see it’s all about corporate greed.”

After accounting for cost of living and other factors, workers in RTW states earn 3.1 percent less than their non-RTW peers, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Such measures also have a negative spillover effect on local communities and there is no evidence that they lead to economic expansion in the states in which they have been implemented.

“When you have middle-class people making less money, they’re paying less taxes, and they’re spending less,” said EPI Senior Economist and Policy Director Heidi Shierholz.

“Higher unionization helps the entire fiscal situation in a state.”

“Perhaps, after a decades-long assault that culminated in the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Missouri vote will be the turning of the tides,” she said.