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Missouri Could Kill Right to Work

Knowing the difference between a referendum and ballot initiative are key to labors survival

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jul 31, 2017

Since Missouri passed a Right to Work law earlier this year, unions have been organizing to bring the environmentally disastrous decision to the voters.  Since the campaign began, both sides have been in court arguing about the language of the proposed referendum and this Friday organized labor scored a huge victory when an appeals court judge ruled in favor of the unions language.

Once Governor Eric Greitens signed the Right to Work (for Less) bill, unions in Missouri began organizing. Missouri law gives working people two options:

  • If they can get 100,000 signatures by August 28th, Right to Work will not go into effect and will be blocked. Instead the voters will get to vote on the Right to Work law in November 2018 in a referendum vote, where they will get to vote for or against Right to Work.
  • If they can’t get 100,000 signatures, Right to Work become law, but the AFL-CIO can wait until next year to file for a ballot initiative to repeal it.
  • The difference between the referendum and the ballot initiative is that a referendum will prevent the law from going into effect until the people get to vote, whereas a ballot initiative will not stop the law from going into effect, but will decide if it stays as law.
  • In both cases, if a majority of people vote against Right to Work, it will die, if a majority stupidly support Right to Work it will then become law.

This is similar to the process that the AFL-CIO used in Ohio to overturn Right to Work. Missouri, the birthplace of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has a strong union history. Like in Ohio, the members have been hitting the pavement to get the needed signatures.

While all this is taking place the anti-union lawyers filed a lawsuit trying to change the language of the referendum to be more pro Right to Work and less pro union.   Often times the change of just a few words can often change the outcome of a referendum by confusing voters.  In this case, a lower court judge had initially changed the language claiming that it was vague and grammatically incorrect.  These changes, that were advocated for by the National Right to Work Foundation, also changed the referendum to say that this referendum would modify "rights of employees and employers,” instead of the original language which said initiatives seek to amend "collective bargaining rights.” The AFL-CIO successfully argued that this change in language unfairly favored the Right to Work Foundation.

This victory means that if the AFL-CIO and their affiliated unions get enough signatures, the language that will go to the voters will be much more worker friendly. While winning the court case is an important first step, the real victory will come on August 28th when the signatures are submitted and the unions organizing efforts stop Right to Work.

Nice work Missouri. Nice Work.

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