Organized Labor gearing up for ‘right-to-work’ fight

WE CAN FIGHT RTW: St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White (right) addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Tri-County Labor Club, explaining Missouri’s newly passed so- called “right-to-work” law and what’s being done to try to stop it from taking effect. – Labor Tribune photo

Be informed, be ready



St. Charles – It was standing-room-only at the Tri-County Labor Club’s most recent meeting, as union members jockeyed for position to learn, “What do we do now that Missouri’s ‘right-to-work’ legislation has been signed into law?”

“We’re getting nothing but calls asking ‘What we can do?’” said Club President Steve Bailey. “We have to live with what we’ve got, but we’ve got to stay in the fight.”

Early this month, newly-elected Republican Gov. Eric Greitens fulfilled his campaign promise to sign “right-to-work,” but almost before the ink dried, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis fought back, filing a Referral Referendum petition that will, if signed by more than 140,000 – 160,000 registered voters, require a statewide vote in 2018 on the RTW law before it could take effect.

Additionally, Labor is considering a separate Initiated Constitutional Amendment Petition signature campaign on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the General Assembly from ever enacting “right-to-work” laws in the future.


Two differences between the two efforts:

  • A Referral Referendum requires five percent of signatures of the total vote in the last governor’s election in 6 of Missouri’s 8 congressional districts. If passed by the voters, RTW cannot be implemented, however, the issue can be brought up again in the next legislative session and passed.

It is is a rarely used process that, if it gets the required number of signatures, forces a statewide vote on it. Using this approach, citizens have rejected the legislature’s actions 24 of 26 times.

  • An Initiated Constitutional Amendment requires eight percent of signatures of the total vote in the last governor’s election in 6 of Missouri’s 8 congressional districts. It bypasses lawmakers altogether; citizens propose the legislation and it goes directly to the voters for their approval.

If passed by the voters, it becomes part of Missouri’s constitution and can’t be brought up again by the legislature; to change the constitution would require a vote of the public.


Greater St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White has been making the rounds speaking at labor clubs and other organizations, explaining and answering questions about what lies ahead in the fight against the anti-worker anti-union law.

White emphasized the importance of gathering between some 140,000 and 160,000 signatures of registered voters to put either measure on the ballot.

“If we can pass this Referral Referendum by an overwhelming number, which we feel we can do, we hope that the politicians in the state will see that the people of Missouri don’t want this terrible law,” White said.


“The number one thing to do right now is get registered to vote,” White said.

“Registration first, then voting are the keys. You need to get everyone in your family of voting age registered to vote. Tell your friends, family, neighbors that if they aren’t registered, their signature on the petition is not valid to get RTW on the ballot. And if they’re not registered, they can’t vote to stop ‘right-to-work.’

“We need people to understand what ‘right-to-work’ can do to you and your family’s security, and we need to get people registered and out to vote.”


White said it’s important for union members to stay informed through the Missouri AFL-CIO, the St. Louis Labor Council and the Labor Tribune, all of which have websites and can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.

He said information will also be distributed through local union halls and labor clubs.


White said it’s also important to maintain solidarity with your brothers and sisters in other unions both in the public and private sector.

“We have to be in lockstep with each other,” White said. “They will try to pit us against each other.”


  • Sign up to be a petition gatherer: Send your name, address cell phone and email info to: NO RTW, 300 Weidman Rd., Ballwin, MO 63011 or email or send a text to 314-420-6484.

Training will be provided for signature gatherers.

  • Show up when the word goes out that we’re ready to begin. When and where will be announced.
  • Spread the word to your family and friends about the upcoming campaign and ask them to sign-up help.

“This is not only going to affect union folks, this is going to affect everybody,” White said. “The facts are that yearly wages go down in ‘right-to-work’ states.”


One Comment

  • Below please find an essay I wrote and have been posting on various social media. Please feel free to publish or use in any manner you please to support the cause.

    Right to Work, Prevailing Wage and Keynesian Economics

    It is appalling that Joplin businessman David Humpherys, whose fortune is based on inherited wealth (rather than his own creativity and labor) spent over 2.3 million dollars to fund “right-to-work” candidates, including $500,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of Eric Greitens. Missouri’s Republican legislature and new bought and paid for Governor wasted no time in making good on the bribes. It is shameful. This hubristic greed and ignorance of basic economics by so called businessmen and politicians never ceases to amaze me. Here’s a quick and simple lesson in Keynesian Economics.

    The worldwide economic system is based on Consumer Capitalism. Wage earners provide huge markets. Therefore, it is in the interest of capitalists to raise wages, increase consumption and create a large and affluent class of professionals and wage earners. Successful capitalist societies raise living standards rather than impoverishing workers. Tax revenues rise as wages and income rise providing government with the required resources to fund the needs of our increasingly complex society.

    It is inevitable that inherited wealth will dominate wealth earned from a lifetime’s labor by a wide margin. The advantage of owning things is that one can exercise power, consume and accumulate without having to work.

    Since the1970’s the share of income going to capital and profits has increased while the share going to labor and wages decreased with an accompanying increase in capital’s bargaining power over labor. At the same time labor productivity has increased dramatically contributing to greater profit margins. When capital prospers, profits grow and labor incomes stagnate, it creates an endless inegalitarian spiral by increasing the concentration of wealth and capital into fewer and fewer hands. This undermines the meritocratic values and principles of social justice fundamental to stable modern democratic societies.

    These past decades have seen increased mobility of capital and heightened competition between states eager to attract investments. This is the essence of the misguided logic behind political support for “right-to work” and prevailing wage legislation. It is mind-boggling that these so called representatives of the people believe that by attempting to break unions and lowering wages, Missouri families will benefit by attracting low pay, no benefits employers who are motivated to locate in regions with an exploitative labor climate. This may be good for the bottom line, but erodes society as a whole. Right-to-work and the dismantling of prevailing wage laws are nothing but dangerous and powerful multipliers of inequality. It is terrible economic policy and even worse social policy. I stand firmly against it. We are better than this.

    Michael R. Perkowski
    B.A. Economics, University of Missouri, Columbia
    Member, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Local 97


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