Missouri AFL-CIO takes first step in fight against ‘right-to-work’

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MIKE LOUIS

Initiative petitions seek constitutional amendment that would make the law moot

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

Jefferson City – Faced with the almost certain passage of “right-to-work” legislation as the first order of business for the Missouri Legislature next year, and a governor who is widely expected to sign it into law, the Missouri AFL-CIO has filed five versions of an initiative petition with the Secretary of State’s office asking Missouri voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would reverse the legislation in 2018.

“It is my belief that the people of Missouri voted for the incoming administration of this state in hopes of creating jobs with good pay, good benefits and safe working conditions,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “All of these items are discussed and negotiated between employers and employees and then voted on by the employees through their chosen representatives.”

The initiative petition, whichever version is approved for ballot language, would require signatures from 8 percent of legal voters in two-thirds of Missouri’s congressional districts to be placed on the ballot. Legal voters are defined as registered voters who cast ballots in this year’s gubernatorial race.

“Right-to-work” reared its ugly head in Missouri earlier this month, with two bills pre-filed in the House (HB 91 and HB 42) and one in the Senate (SB 19) seeking to make the anti-union measure law.

Under “right-to-work,” employers and unions would be banned from negotiating a contract requiring members of a bargaining unit to pay dues for services the union must provide under federal law.

States that have passed “right-to-work” have lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. They also, on average, have seen smaller median income growth than Missouri.

The “right-to-work” push in Missouri has been largely fueled and funded by David Humphreys, a Joplin roofing magnate and union hater who, with his family, spent more than $11 million this year trying to oust union-friendly Republicans from the Missouri Legislature and elect Eric Greitens governor.

Greitens has said passing “right-to-work” is one of his top priorities.

“We do not need the puppets of David Humphreys or any other corporate billionaire to pass laws to interfere with a process that has long made Missouri a great place to have a business and a great place to work,” Louis said. “That is exactly the intent of those bought and paid for by Humphreys and big corporations, and it is the intent of the Missouri AFL-CIO to do our damndest to work hard to ensure that these outsiders do not interfere with the rights of employers and employees to work together for a stronger Missouri.

“It’s time for Missouri workers to say once and for all that we will not allow these outsiders to reduce wages, benefits and jeopardize safety on the job to ensure that the fat cats get richer while Missouri working families get paid less,” Louis said.

Assuming “right-to-work” passes and is signed into law, Jim Faul, an attorney at Hartnett Gladney Hetterman L.L.C. and legal counsel for the Missouri AFL-CIO, said the initiative petition, if it makes it to the ballot as a constitutional amendment and is approved by voters, would return Missouri to its free-bargaining state status.

“All we’re asking for is the status quo, that the Missouri government doesn’t infringe on peoples’ rights to protect themselves and to freely bargain with their employers,” Faul said. “I’d like to think we’re a state where workers are treated equally, even if they’re not management or owners.”

Research for the initiative petition was financed by Preserve Middle Class America, a coalition of citizens and organizations advocating for better wages, working conditions, and employment opportunities for middle class families.

David Cook, president of UFCW Local 655, who serves as president of Preserve Middle Class America, Inc. and treasurer of Preserve Middle Class America PAC said “Preserve Middle Class America was happy to financially support the research to embolden in the state’s constitution workers’ and employers’ right to negotiate fair contracts without interference from the government.

“It’s my belief that a whole lot of these middle class workers that voted for change with the hope of having less government interference and quality middle class jobs are going to be appalled when the first act this new legislature takes is to mandate government interference in agreements with companies and employees,” Cook said. “I firmly believe they will overwhelmingly support a constitutional amendment to mandate that government stay out of collective bargaining agreements between employers and employees.”with a host of other anti-union legislation. Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said “The working people of Missouri need to make their voices heard.”

 

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