Missouri Voters Will Decide Fate of Worker-Freedom Law

Published June 11, 2018

Voters in Missouri will decide whether a state law prohibiting forced union membership goes into effect, nearly a year and a half after it was signed into law.

In February 2017, former Gov. Eric Greitens (R) 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, 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, will appear on the August 7, 2018 statewide ballot.

‘This Is About Jobs’

Missouri state Rep. Diane Franklin (R- Camdenton) says everyone should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union.

“I feel every Missourian has the right to apply for any job they want to without being forced to join a union,” Franklin said. “If they want to join a union, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be forced to.”

Allowing the law to take effect will promote economic prosperity for everyone, including union members, Franklin says.

“[Right-to-work] will open up more jobs to all Missourians, not just those that choose not to join a union,” Franklin said. “For the past nearly quarter of a century, RTW states have averaged job growth at about twice the rate of non-RTW states. That will impact every Missourian.

“This is about jobs; it’s as simple as that,” Franklin said. “With more jobs and most likely a lower cost of living, I think it’s a win-win situation for Missouri.”

Comparative Disadvantage

Patrick Ishmael, director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute, says business owners consider a state’s RTW status when deciding where to build or expand facilities, and Missouri has been at a disadvantage in that regard.

“For some companies, whether a state is right-to-work is a top-five issue,” Ishmael said. “Out of the gate, Missouri is at a disadvantage compared to most of its close geographic peers.

“It’s sort of like playing soccer a man down: you could still come out with the victory, but it’s going to be tough,” Ishmael said.

Calls for Additional Reforms

Although allowing the worker-freedom law to take effect would increase Missourians’ success and prosperity, there’s much more work to be done, Franklin says.

“RTW is an excellent step in promoting economic freedom, allowing every Missourian the ability to work wherever they are qualified to work,” Franklin said. “Further reducing useless regulations and restrictions that are put on businesses would increase job growth and allow businesses to grow. I feel we have made some headway in that area, but there is much more to do.”

Ishmael says Missouri lawmakers must implement other economic reforms, too, in order to improve the state’s economy.

“Missouri needs to continue moving in the direction of eliminating its income taxes and rejecting the economic cronyism of tax incentives,” Ishmael said. “In 2018, the legislature passed reductions to both the individual and corporate income tax rates. [Further] drawing down those rates and rolling back tax handouts will be key to ensuring the state is a place that promotes economic freedom and prosperity for years to come.”