A lack of formatting temporarily halted progress on a Citizens Referendum petition submitted by the Missouri AFL-CIO to let the people decide whether or not Missouri should be a so-called “right-to-work” state.
In a ridiculous attempt to silence the voices of the working Missourians, Republican officials went out of their way to reject the petition saying parts of it were not properly “punctuated,” meaning that the text of the bill was “not underlined.”
On Feb. 21, Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office notified Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft that the petition “must be rejected” based on those that ludicrous technicality.
“Although we don’t think the Secretary had any legitimate basis to reject this referendum, we immediately did what hardworking Missourians do when faced with adversity: we got to work,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “We got out a ruler and a pen, underlined the text of the bill and re-filed the petition.”
CONFUSION OVER STATE STATUTES
Missouri AFL-CIO Attorney Jim Faul, Hartnett Gladney Hetterman, L.L.C. law firm, said the attorney general’s office is mistakenly treating the referendum petition as an initiative petition. He explained that with an initiative petition, the bill in question is edited with language to be deleted in brackets and language to be added that is underlined.
“In my opinion, the attorney general’s office doesn’t know how to interpret the statute on referendum petitions,” Faul said. “With a referendum petition, there is nothing to be added to or deleted from the bill. Voters are asked, ‘Should this become law or not?’”
Faul said in response to the rejection, the petition was resubmitted with the language of the entire bill underlined. He said the rejection could delay approval of the approval of the petition between 15 and 30 days.
When the petition and bill were resubmitted, a representative in the secretary of state’s office actually asked where the staple would be placed to adjoin the paperwork.
The Missouri Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that initiative and referendum provisions “should be liberally construed to avail the voters with every opportunity to exercise these rights,” Louis said.
“What’s next?” Louis asked. “Rejection of the referendum for the text being in bold instead of normal typeface? Rejection for the pages of the bill being single-sided instead of double-sided? Rejection for misalignment of a staple? How far will Secretary Ashcroft be willing to go to deny the people’s right to place this unpopular bill before the voters?”
WILL DEFEND VOTERS’ RIGHTS
Louis said if Ashcroft continued to engage in serial bad faith rejections of the referendum petition, the Missouri AFL-CIO would take aggressive steps to defend the rights of Missouri citizens to gather sufficient signatures to submit this bill to a popular vote.
“Missouri voters will see right through these technicalities,” Louis said. “We fully expect them to reject the so-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation when it is presented to them. They know a bad deal when they see it.”
THE REFERENDUM PETITION
The Missouri AFL-CIO and the NAACP filed the original Citizens Referendum petition the same day newly-elected Republican Governor Eric Greitens fulfilled his campaign promise and signed the so-called “right-to-work” Senate Bill 19 into law.
The new law, which is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 28, injects the government directly in labor-management negotiations by telling the company what it cannot negotiate – a labor contract that first must be accepted by the workers themselves requiring everyone covered by the contract to either pay dues or a ‘fair share fee’ that covers the cost of the union representation they receive.
If the petition is signed by 160,000 registered voters by Aug. 27, it would require a statewide vote in 2018 on the phony “right-to-work” law before it could take effect. If the measure is passed by the voters in 2018, so-called “right-to-work” cannot be implemented; however, the issue can be brought up again in the next legislative session for consideration and another legislative vote.
INITIATED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PETITION
Labor officials are also considering a separate Initiated Constitutional Amendment Petition signature campaign on a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the General Assembly from ever enacting phony “right-to-work” laws in the future.
It would require eight percent of signatures of the total vote in the last governor’s election in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. It bypasses lawmakers altogether; citizens propose the legislation and it goes directly to the voters for their consideration.
If passed by the voters, it becomes part of Missouri’s constitution and can’t be brought up again by the legislature.