Well, that didn’t take long. Less than four months after Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected legislative attempts to undermine collective bargaining under the misnomer “right to work,” a state lawmaker has filed a bill to effectively overrule that vote by legislation.
The Legislature has a long, sorry history of this kind of contempt for the will of the people. Legislative leaders should forcefully scuttle this proposal and send a strong message that labor rights, as well as democracy, are still in force in Missouri.
Last year, then-Gov. Eric Greitens and his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature pushed through a right-to-work law, fulfilling a long-promised GOP goal here and nationally, despite strong indications the Missouri public didn’t want it.
The law effectively undermined collective bargaining by allowing employees at union shops to opt out of union dues or related fees. It was presented as freedom of choice for workers, but also as a pro-business measure. It was really about breaking unions so employers could pay workers less and erode other advances achieved through collective bargaining over the years.
In response, labor forces collected more than 300,000 signatures to put the new law before the voters in August. The measure, Proposition A, was an up-or-down vote on what the Legislature had done. The vote against right-to-work prevailed by a roughly 2-to-1 margin — this in a solidly Republican state — indicating strong bipartisan support for keeping bargaining rights in place.
In an editorial after the vote, this newspaper all-but predicted that some right-to-work lawmakers would attempt to legislate the voters’ decision out from under them. It wasn’t a risky prediction; the Legislature has done it before on issues ranging from campaign contributions to concealed weapons to casino taxes to puppy mills.
“Now that we know what the people of Missouri actually do want” on right to work, we asked, “will Republican legislators respect that?”
From at least one of them, the answer today is, no. As the Post-Dispatch’s Jack Suntrup reports, state Sen.-elect Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, has filed legislation attempting to revive the right-to-work law that the voters so overwhelmingly rejected in August.
It’s unclear whether the legislation will go anywhere, but the gall it takes to even file it should prompt strong pushback from the legislative leaders of Burlison’s own party. Voters have spoken as clearly as possible on this issue — and on the related issue of a state minimum wage increase, which Missourians approved on Nov. 6 by a similarly massive margin.
Missouri these days is clearly a “red” state when candidates are on the ballot. But the voters this year have said twice — and loudly — that Missouri is still a strongly pro-labor state, too. It’s time for the state’s political leaders, regardless of party, to accept that and give up this union-busting campaign.