By DARIN GILLEY
UAW Local 2250
Why does this issue keep coming back? In 2018, Missourians voted down making Missouri a so-called “Right-to-Work” state by 67 percent to 33 percent. That’s almost seven in 10 Missourians voting to keep Missouri a Free Bargaining state. Despite the overwhelming margin here it comes again.
The Missouri Secretary of State recently approved for circulation Initiative Petition 2022-004 to amend Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution to establish Missouri as a “right-to-work” state. Why on earth would the corporate bosses that couldn’t make “right-to-work” a law in 2018 try to enshrine this wage-destroying measure in the Missouri Constitution?
YOU KNOW THE ANSWER
I don’t mean the lower wages and benefits that come with “right-to-work (for less)” although that is the inevitable practical outcome of the mis-named effort. I mean the small amount of money the corporate bosses will spend to put this on the ballot versus the large amount of money and resources the Labor Movement will spend to fight the issue.
In 2018, the supporters of a “Yes” vote spent a total of $5.17 million. The folks asking for a “No” vote, led by We Are Missouri, invested $18.8 million in a winning effort. Of course, fueling those kinds of resources took a major response from the Labor community. This is exactly why the issue will be replayed again and again.
THEY WIN, EVEN WHEN THEY LOSE
The corporate bosses would love to enshrine this union-busting concept in the state constitution, but they win even if they lose at the ballot box.
First, for a small investment from the company coffers they can circulate a petition, create a think tank named something like Show Me Lower Wages and Freedom from Healthcare, and have a few signs printed and they have put their plan in motion.
Second, they will do a bunch of interviews with all the corporate-friendly media in the state. The content in these interviews will be provided by Show Me Lower Wages and Freedom from Healthcare touting a poll of nine CEO’s and the waitress serving them at the lunch where the poll was taken. They will report that 90 percent of those polled favor “right-to-work” (for less). They will use this figure in the ads purchased on the corporate media which will then report it is a dogfight of an election.
Meanwhile, the Labor Movement will begin pooling resources from individual unions and members around the state, create a PAC like We Are Missouri to counter the corporate currency, and begin diverting resources from other issues important to the Labor Movement and workers and their families – issues like maintaining the Prevailing Wage, maximizing the Minimum Wage, improving Workers Compensation and Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO-Act).
It’s forcing this diversion of resources for critical worker issues that Big Business doesn’t want to see passed. That is the reason “right-to-work” (for less), like Easter lilies, returns to Missouri every spring.
DISTRACTION IS KEY
While corporate chiefs enjoy spending a little to force Labor to spend a lot, the overall point of bringing up this issue every year is to distract.
The corporate goal here is to force Labor as a movement to take its eye off the ball on the important workers’ issues in order to have a coordinated response to the threat of “right-to-work” (for less).
This tactic raises the prospect of a never-ending fight that serves to keep Labor fighting for turf it has already won and unable to push other issues that would improve the working conditions and lives of Missourians.
WE CAN SEND A STRONG MESSAGE
Is there a way out of this cynical cycle? You bet.
First, if the issue comes to another vote, yet another resounding defeat at the ballot box in 2022 would send a strong message.
Second, a defeat of the referendum combined with a defeat for those candidates that continually push this issue would serve as the ultimate STOP sign.
When the corporate powers that be realize that this issue is not a fun way to get a lot of electoral bang for their buck, but a vehicle that gives their political cronies a quick ride out of the Capitol, they will look for another method to attack Missouri workers.