Court ruling on RTW repeal ballot language changes nothing; petition drive continues

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COLLECTING SIGNATURES: Tile Setters Local 18 President Mike Weber (right) helps an area resident sign the petition to place the repeal of RTW on the ballot June 10 in Troy, MO. Also collecting signatures are (center left) Bricklayers Local 1 Business Representative Johnny Walker and Local 18 Vice President Tim Mueller. – Labor Tribune photo

MO AFL-CIO: ‘We will continue to go forward using the current referendum language and the petitions that we have been using’

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor

Jefferson City – A Cole County circuit judge’s recent ruling that the language of the ballot initiative seeking to overturn Missouri’s so-called “right-to-work” law is “unfair and insufficient” will not affect the signatures already collected and will not slow the current signature collecting effort to put the measure on the ballot, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO said.

Louis said the state federation has already filed an appeal of the ruling.

“This has done nothing to weaken our commitment to working to ensure voters – not politicians – decide whether or not so-called ‘right-to-work’ should become law in Missouri,” Louis said. “We won’t be deterred by high-paid, out-of-state attorneys and special interests who seek to confuse voters and attack Missouri families.

“Tens of thousands of Missourians have signed a petition to place this issue on the ballot and exercise their right to a citizen’s 

veto,” Louis said. “The referendum process exists in Missouri law to make sure Missouri citizens have the final say. We will continue to collect petitions during the appeal process.”

And the signatures already collected will count, attorney Chuck Hatfield said, even if new language is approved. Missouri Supreme Court precedent says the signatures collected from registered Missouri voters using the language approved by the Secretary of State’s office will count until, or even if, new language is approved.

After that time, if new language is approved, petition gatherers would need to circulate petitions using the new ballot summary, but ALL of the valid signatures already collected will count toward placing the measure on the ballot.

“This happens regularly, that a trial court will tinker with the language, but it should not impact what you’re doing,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield is a partner in the Jefferson City law firm Stinson Leonard Street and served 10 years as chief of staff and counsel to then Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon.

“We will continue to go forward using the current referendum language and the petitions that we have been using,” Louis said.

‘EMBARRASSING’ AND MISLEADING

In the suit in question, attorneys paid for by the National Right To Work Foundation and representing three people from the Kansas City area, alleged that wording for the proposed ballot initiative, approved by Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Attorney General Josh Hawley, was riddled with “embarrassing” grammatical errors and was misleading.

Cole County Judge Daniel R. Green agreed.

One chief point of the contention was the question “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….”

The judge found that the use of the word “adopt” was misleading since the bill had already been passed and signed by Governor Eric Greitens, although it doesn’t become law until Aug. 28.

Green rewrote the ballot summary to read:

“Shall the people of the state of Missouri reject Senate Bill 19 (“Right to Work”), enacted in 2017, which: (1) prohibits as a condition of employment membership in, or payments of dues or fees in full or in part to, a labor organization (union); (2) makes any agreement or activity violating is provision illegal and ineffective; and (3) allows legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of violations or threats of violations of its provisions?”

SECRETARY OF STATE COULD ALSO APPEAL

Ashcroft expressed disappointment with the court’s ruling but said his office had not decided, as of Friday, whether it would appeal.

“Although we are disheartened with the court’s ruling, we are carefully considering our legal strategy,” Ashcroft said. “We remain committed to protecting the right of individuals to collect signatures while ensuring compliance with the referendum process required by the Missouri Constitution.”

SIGNATURE GATHERING CONTINUES

In the meantime, signature gathering efforts are continuing, not just at union halls, but in neighborhoods and at parades and festivals throughout the state.

A statewide day of action on June 10 resulted in the collection of thousands of signatures from Missouri voters.

Other targeted actions are planned in the coming weeks.

You can learn more and stay informed on signature gathering efforts by visiting We Are MO at wearemo.org, and liking them on Facebook at facebook.com/StopRightToWork.

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