Missouri Voters Repeal Right-to-Work Law

Published September 12, 2018

Voters in Missouri repealed a state law prohibiting forced union membership, preventing the law from going into effect nearly a year and a half after it was signed.

In February 2017, former Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law a bill preventing unions and employers from requiring workers to join a union as a condition of employment. The right-to-work (RTW) law was scheduled to take effect on August 28, 2017.

On August 18, 2017, organized-labor groups collected enough signatures to trigger the state’s referendum process, suspending the rule until a public vote could be held.

The referendum question, titled Proposition A, appeared before voters on the August 7, 2018 statewide ballot. The public voted to repeal the law by 67 percent to 33 percent.

Says Phrasing is Key

Missouri state Sen. Ed Emery (R–Lamar) says labor unions successfully misled voters into limiting their own choices in the workplace.

“Labor unions poured millions into an anti-RTW campaign,” Emory said. “RTW has been taken by the labor unions and they’ve co-opted it as an evil thing. RTW simply gives you the choice whether you will or will not join a union, by saying an employer cannot force you to join a union as a condition of employment.”

Jeremy Cady, director of the Missouri chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says RTW laws are about giving people more freedom.

“RTW supports a worker’s choice,” Cady said. “It allows a worker to not support an organization they disagree with. Unions are often involved with politics. They have given well over a billion dollars to different progressive issues over the past several years. There are some workers that don’t support the unions’ politics but think they should stay focused on trying to negotiate a better contract with employers.”

Suggests Bottom-Up Strategy

Emery says the benefits of RTW are too numerous to justify giving up on the cause.

“A lot of companies won’t look at Missouri without RTW, so we shouldn’t give up on giving people choice in the workplace,” Emery said. “Some states have had a lot of success implementing freedom-to-work laws at the county level. If enough counties do that, it compels the rest of the state to follow suit in order to compete with their adjoining counties. I’m hoping we can take a hard look at that.”

Cady says he hopes individuals choose to do their own research on the truth about RTW when out-of-state labor unions come to Missouri to fight future worker-freedom efforts.

“The unions felt a need to do a referendum and put a lot of effort into campaigning,” Cady said. “They hired out-of-state contractors to come in and collect signatures to get this issue on the ballot. That was a concerted effort by the unions to undo the legislation that was passed. Not to say money cannot be spent on politics—obviously it can, it’s a free-speech issue. Individuals and voters need to be aware of what is going on, who is doing what, and need to do a lot of this research themselves.”

Looks Forward to the Future

Cady says free-market proponents will be ready for round two in the fight to ensure a more prosperous future for Missourians.

“I think, ultimately, it’s more a question of when rather than if,” Cady said. “We’re going to keep trying to educate and inform voters so, next time we face this, we have higher-quality options. On one side, you have some saying wages are slashed in RTW states. Others indicate that wages actually grow faster in RTW states and, when you account for cost of living, workers in RTW states actually make more.”