The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 24, 2018

Workers smash RTW effort in Missouri by 2-1 margin

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS (PAI)—Workers racked up a big win in Missouri on Aug. 7, smashing the right-wing’s campaign for a so-called “right to work” law in the Show Me State by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

With all precincts reporting, there were 937,241 “no” votes -- against RTW – and only 452,075 “yes” votes. The result killed the RTW law the heavily right-wing Republican Missouri legislature passed and then-GOP Gov. Eric Greitens signed last year.  

“This goes way beyond the labor movement,” an elated Mike Louis, president of the state AFL-CIO, told Press Associates Union News Service in a telephone interview from the jam-packed election celebration. 

“This has been a great victory of a coalition to put the middle class back the way it was – and not be a class where people work in poverty while a few people get richer and richer.”

But even after knocking on 800,000 doors in the run-up to the August 7 vote, making more than a million phone calls and talking to people at more than 1,000 job sites, the state fed won’t stop there, Louis added.

“We thank all the people who put us in this position in the first place,” he said, referring to labor’s community, civic, religious and other allies, as well as the 310,000 people who signed petitions to get the anti-RTW petition on the state ballot.

“But those who stood up for corporate America instead of looking after their constituents had better be looking over their shoulders,” Louis said. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the Missouri win “the latest sign of a true groundswell, and working people are just getting started.”

In an online recorded statement, Trumka called 2018 “the year of the worker.” He added “working people will not accept an economy that works only for the few.”

“Defeat of this poisonous anti-worker legislation is a victory for all workers across the country,” Trumka added in a prepared statement. “The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Proposition A (the pro-RTW initiative) is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determination. Tonight is the latest act of working people changing a rigged system that for decades has been favoring corporations, the mega wealthy and the privileged few.”

Michigan could not similarly overturn its right-to-work law. When it was enacted in 2012, the state Legislature attached a $1 million appropriation to it, and the state Constitution says that legislation with money attached to it cannot be overturned by a citizens' petition drive. 

"Attaching that appropriation to prevent petition drives wasn't a thing until recent years," said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council attorney John Canzano. "But that's the messed up system that we have. The only way we get right-to-work removed is through the Legislature or if the Constitution is changed."

Outside special interests, a right-wing business executive from the extremely conservative southwestern Missouri city of Joplin and Greitens – whose “dark money” campaign committee raised and spent $2 million – funded the RTW effort. But, in an upset, they were actually outspent, as well as outworked. And workers and their allies rolled out at least one national big gun of their own: Former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“If union workers don’t make a fair wage, every other worker loses,” Biden told St. Louis Labor Tribune publisher Ed Finkelstein during a July 25 visit to the city. “We fought hard to keep it (right-to-work) out of Delaware,” his state. “It’s not in the best interests of workers,” in Missouri or anywhere.