“Right to Work” Goes to the Ballot

On August 18, opponents of Missouri’s “Right-to-Work” law – which was scheduled to go into effect on August 28 – submitted more than 310,000 signatures that will likely delay implementation of the law and force the question to a ballot referendum next fall.

As readers of the blog will recall, “Right-to-Work” legislation prohibits employers and unions from agreeing to “union security clauses” that require employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.   Unions have strongly opposed the law, arguing that it weakens unions and results in lower wages for employees in “Right-to-Work” states.  Supporters of “Right-to-Work” argue that employees should not have to pay dues to unions that may use them to support political candidates and legislation the employee disagrees with, and that “Right-to-Work” legislation makes Missouri more business friendly.

The Missouri General Assembly quickly passed “Right-to-Work” legislation at the beginning of their 2017 legislative session and newly-elected Governor Eric Greitens signed the measure on February 6 of this year.  However, if sufficient signatures are collected requesting a referendum on a ballot passed by the General Assembly, Missouri law suspends the effective date of laws passed by the General Assembly and requires them to be submitted to voters.  “Right-to-Work” opponents, which include national labor unions and the Missouri NAACP, turned in approximately three times the number of required signatures to put the question to voters.  The Missouri Secretary of State will now review the signatures.

Before the signatures had even been collected, “Right-to-Work” opponents had already succeeded in obtaining favorable language for the referendum.  It reads:

Do the people of the state of Missouri want to adopt Senate Bill 19 (“Right-to-Work”) as passed by the general assembly in 2017, which prohibits as a condition of employment the forced membership in a labor organization (union) or forced payments of dues in full or pro-rata (fair-share); make any activity which violates employees’ rights illegal and ineffective; allow legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of another person violating or threatening to violate employees’ rights; and which shall not apply to union agreements entered into before the effective date of Senate Bill 19?

Critics of the ballot language challenged it in Court, arguing that it was drafted in way that was intentionally confusing to voters.  A Missouri trial court agreed, but the ballot language was largely upheld by an appeals court.

Both supporters and opponents of “Right-to-Work” are already gearing-up to persuade voters in preparation for the referendum.  In Missouri, the debate over “Right-to-Work” continues.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters, including defense of discrimination claims, for almost sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.