The Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District handed the state’s labor unions a victory on July 28 when it ruled against plaintiffs seeking to block a statewide referendum on the state’s new right-to-work law.
The Appeals Court overturned an earlier Circuit Court ruling that sided with opponents of the referendum. Opponents claimed that the summary of the referendum written by the secretary of state and approved by the state’s attorney general was unclear.
The Appeals Court acknowledged that there were some problems with the summary but that the problems did not affect its clarity.
The state AFL-CIO praised the Appeals Court’s ruling and said that it will continue collecting signatures on petitions to put the referendum on the November 2018 ballot.
The referendum will give Missouri voters the opportunity to veto the newly enacted right-to-work law.
If the AFL-CIO collects at least 100,126 valid signatures on the referendum petition before August 28 when the new law becomes effective, implementation of the new law will be delayed until after the election.
Gov. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens in February signed the anti-union, right-to-work law after it was passed by the Republican dominated legislature.
Passage of the new law came after what the Kansas City Star described as “decades-long push by Republicans and business groups.”
The new law is called a right-to-work law, but it has little to do with protecting a person’s right to work. Its only purpose is to weaken unions.
The new law allows workers to enjoy the benefits of union membership–wages and benefits negotiated by a union, union grievance representation, etc.–without paying union dues.
Union dues provide resources that unions need to stand up for worker rights. Paying union dues is also an act of solidarity, and worker solidarity is the source of union power. Without it, the boss dictates the terms and conditions of employment.
Hours after Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed the law into effect, the state AFL-CIO and state NAACP filed for a referendum on the new law with the Missouri secretary of state.
The secretary of state wrote a summary of the proposed referendum and sent it to the attorney general for review.
After the review was complete, the secretary of state in March approved a petition for the referendum. The wording of the petition was based on the secretary of state’s summary.
In April, the AFL-CIO began collecting signatures on the petition.
In order to keep voters from voting on referendum, three plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Foundation filed suit charging that the secretary of state’s summary contained grammatical errors that made the purpose of the referendum unclear.
The National Right to Work Foundation is affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee, which is funded by Charles and David Koch, the Walton family, which owns Walmart, and other anti-union business people.
The reason that these business leaders want states to pass right to work laws is that workers in states that have right to work laws earn less money and have fewer benefits than their counterparts in non-right to work states.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, full-time, full-year workers in right-to-work states are paid $1558 a year less than comparable workers in states that do not have right-to-work laws.
Another study by EPI found that the rate of employers that offer health insurance benefits is 2.6 percent lower in right-to-work states than in non right-to-work states.
A Missouri Circuit Court in June heard the plaintiffs’ suit and ruled in their favor.
After the ruling, the AFL-CIO continued to circulate the referendum petition, but there was some question about how the judge’s ruling would affect the validity of the signatures gathered.
That question was rendered moot when the Appeals Court ruled against the plaintiffs and allowed the wording of the summary to stand.
Meanwhile, the union’s petition drive is entering its home stretch. The petitions must be submitted before August 28 when the new law goes into effect.
The AFL-CIO has scheduled petition mobilizations for the weekends that remain before the deadline.
After the Appeals Court announced it ruling, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he was confident that the petition drive will succeed and that people will have a chance to vote on the new law in 2018.