Union and non-union, Democrats and Republicans voted against the destructive, anti-worker law
By TIM ROWDEN
In a stunning and historic win for working families, Missourians decisively rejected Proposition A Aug. 7 by a better than two-to-one majority, 67.5 percent to 32.5 percent, defeating so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) in 99 of Missouri’s 114 counties and the City of St. Louis.
“Working people made their voices heard at the ballot box and overturned ‘right-to-work.’ It’s a truly historic moment,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, “but tomorrow we’re getting back to work. We’re going to take this energy and momentum and build more power for working people across Missouri.
“This goes way beyond the Labor Movement,” Louis said, noting the community, civic and religious groups and other allies who joined in knocking on 800,000 doors, making more than a million phone calls and talking to people at more than 1,000 job sites in the run-up to the Aug. 7 vote.
“We thank all the people who put us in this position,” he said of the victory. “But those who stood up for corporate America instead of looking after their constituents had better be looking over their shoulders.”
DEFEATED BY UNION & NON-UNION, DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS
Missouri voters had last rejected right to work in 1978, when the state boasted some 500,000 union members. Today, Missouri’s estimated 260,000 union members make up only about eight percent of the state’s workforce.
But the vote against Prop A was 937,241 to 452,075.
In every corner of the state, voters rebuked the efforts of powerful, out-of-state corporate interests and dark money to control the future of Missouri’s economy, from collecting more than 310,000 signatures –– more than three times the number needed –– to put the measure on the ballot to defeating RTW by an even greater percentage than it was last defeated in 1978.
Despite the lies and phony promises of its backers, union and non-union workers, Democrats and Republicans all understood that RTW would hurt rather than help Missouri’s workers and economy; that it would not create jobs, but would lower wages ––by more than $8,700 according to U.S. Census Data –– at a time when CEO pay has grown 361 times higher than what the average worker makes.
Missouri voters, union and non-union, understood all of that and voted “No” to protect the future for Missouri’s working families.
‘HOPE FOR WORKERS’
As workers and Organized Labor have suffered blow after blow in recent years, culminating with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which imposed RTW conditions on private sector union members, the fight against and defeat of Prop A drew national attention.
“Missouri gave hope to workers across the nation,” said Senator Jake Hummel, secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO. “We showed that when working people stick together, we can accomplish anything. We owe this victory to the hardworking men and women across the state who knew their livelihoods were at stake and didn’t give up.”
The New York Times hailed the victory, declaring that the wind is at Labor’s back.
Even the editorial board of the corporate championing Wall Street Journal acknowledged the Labor Movement’s surging power, warning CEOs that their employees just might start demanding more.
“Defeat of this poisonous anti-worker legislation is a victory for all workers across the country,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a prepared statement. “The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Proposition A is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determination. [This vote] is the latest act of working people changing a rigged system that for decades has been favoring corporations, the mega wealthy and the privileged few.
“Unions are on the rise,” Trumka said. “Missouri is the latest sign of a groundswell.”
A VICTORY FOR WORKERS
“The workers in Missouri won,” said David Cook, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, which represents more than 10,000 workers in retail food and non-food, manufacturing, packing houses, distribution centers, laboratories, and hair care.
“This was a victory for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, union members, non-union members. This was something that the workers of Missouri said was not good for Missouri. It was a victory for workers.”
And that victory should set the stage for change.
“We look forward now to going to Jefferson City, reaching across lines and trying to really move Missouri forward – better schools, better roads, better jobs. Better jobs really create all of the above,” Cook said. “So, if we can work with the leadership in Jefferson City to create those better jobs in Missouri, to build a better tax base to pay for infrastructure, to pay for better schools, all of Missouri will benefit.
“I think this vote should send the leadership in Jefferson City a message that workers don’t want to take a step backward, workers want to move forward. They want a better standard of living. The days of the few, the 1%, the CEOs making 361 times the income of their workers is not acceptable in Missouri.”
A VICTORY FOR WORKING FAMILIES
“This was a great victory not only for Missouri, but for all working families across our great country,” said Mark Conner, directing business representative for Machinists District 9. “This was the boost and much needed uplifting that all working families have been needing. And what excites me the most is this two-to-one victory was not only the result of the vote of the people in the larger metropolitan areas, it was the vote of the people in the rural areas throughout the state.
“Missouri’s working families, both union and non-union, have sent a message to the ones who seek to destroy us, a clear message that hard-working Missourians will no longer tolerate out-of-state corporate interests or billionaires coming in and buying elections, or allow legislators to strip away working families’ wages and benefits that they have worked so hard for.”
It was a long, hard fight – 18 months from the petition to the vote – said Frank Jacobs, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1.
“It’s a great day for the working families and working men and women of the state of Missouri,” Jacobs said. “The middle class, the working families of Missouri are going to benefit from this great victory.”
‘I HOPE THE MISSOURI LEGISLATURE WILL LISTEN’
“This is a true victory not only for my union, but for all working families in Missouri,” said Brenda Davis, an SEIU Healthcare member and restorative aide at Christian Care Home in Ferguson, where workers won a courageous and hard-fought strike last winter, winning higher wages, better benefits and job protections. “Now, I hope that the Missouri Legislature will listen to the voice of the people, and focus on issues important to working families rather than trying to attack workers with laws like ‘right-to-work.’”
‘POLITICIANS SHOULD BE ON NOTICE’
“Now that Missourians have again voted to reject the unfair and dangerous ‘right-to-work’ law, our state’s politicians should be on notice and stand up for collective bargaining rights next Session,” said Missouri Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) President Robin Robertson and Vice President Cathy Sherwin. “We are inspired by the many union sisters who have been diligently working on each of the many steps along the way to this historic victory for working people! We celebrate by getting right back to work. Solidarity Forever!”
The victory was due in large part to the coalition Labor has built civil justice and religious groups, reaching beyond union membership to build a better quality of life for all workers and families.
“There were nearly four times as many NO votes on Prop A as there are union members in this state,” said Richard Von Glahn, policy director for Missouri Jobs with Justice. “Even if no union member had voted, Prop A would have been defeated. No matter how the proponents of ‘right-to-work want to spin in, this was truly a rejection of their vision by ALL of Missouri.”
Significance of the vote
The vote against Prop A was significant not only for repealing Missouri’s RTW law but for how it was defeated.
“The sheer numbers are what’s most amazing to me,” said Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. “I was hoping for 60 percent, to get 68 was quite an accomplishment. We were only about 11,000 votes shy of our total in 1978 (the last time Missouri voters defeated RTW). We had 35 percent union density then and we’re at 11 nationally now. To get that close when we don’t’ have even half the union density we did back then is really something.”
Prop A was defeated in 99 counties and the city of St. Louis, White noted.
“That says this isn’t something just the urban areas care about; it’s in the rural areas too,” White said. “This is something people are passionate about throughout the whole state.
“Prop A was defeated with 78 percent of the vote in Jefferson County and 68 percent in St. Charles County and those have been deep red counties,” he said. “Hopefully, the politicians in those districts now realize they have a lot of working people in their districts and to cut us off at the knees is not what is needed.
“Hopefully, we’ve built a foundation here to work on,” White said. “Hopefully we can keep it going through November and beyond. The togetherness we’ve built with all the locals is really something.”