RTW: ‘If we had the election today, we’d beat this thing’

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GAINING MOMENTUM: More than 400 union members and supporters turned out at the St. Louis Labor Council recently to learn the proper method for gathering signatures on the Citizens’ Referendum petition to halt Missouri’s so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law and put the measure on the ballot. Trainings are currently being held across the state and signature gathering already well under way. – Labor Tribune photo

Hundreds turn out for training to help gather signatures on referendum petition

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

More than 400 union members and supporters turned out at the St. Louis Labor Council recently to receive training to gather signatures on the Citizens’ Referendum petition to halt Missouri’s so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law and put the measure on the ballot.

The Labor Council meeting at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 hall was standing room only.

The referendum petition is gaining momentum, with trainings being held across the state and signature gathering already well under way.

Missouri’s new RTW law, signed by Gov. Eric Greitens in February and set to go into effect Aug. 28, would allow employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying dues or a fair share fee for the cost of being represented.

The Citizens’ Referendum petition, if successful, would put implementation of the law on hold until Missouri residents have a chance to vote on it in November 2018.

WHY IT MATTERS

Other states that have passed RTW have lower wages, fewer benefits and more dangerous workplaces. They also, on average, have seen smaller median income growth than Missouri.

In fact, two of Missouri’s RTW neighbors – Kansas and Oklahoma, lost jobs last year, while Missouri created more new jobs than all of its RTW neighbors.

WHAT’S NEEDED

Missouri residents can call a referendum on a new law by collecting signatures from six of the state’s eight congressional districts.

There are over 260,000 union members in Missouri, and recent polling shows Missouri residents who oppose RTW far exceed those who support it.

“If we had the election today, we’d beat this thing,” St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White said. But he noted, the election, if it happens, is a long way off.

Missouri voters last considered RTW in 1978, and defeated the terrible anti-worker law by a three-to-one majority. But union density has declined since then. Fewer voters today understand what RTW is and what it does to working families.

“This is as big a fight as it was in 1978,” White said. “We need to get everybody we can on board, because we only represent seven to eight percent of the workforce.”

HOW WE GET THERE

The recent training session was conducted by Ryan Burke, senior field representative with the AFL-CIO, who urged union members to help spread the word and collect signatures among their friends, family, fellow union members and communities.

“If you all go back to your local unions, to your schools, your church, your family members, we can get there,” Burke said.

“There’s no other group, no other interest in the state of Missouri, that’s better set up to do this than union members.”

ILLINOIS UNION MEMBERS

Illinois union members can help in the effort to keep Missouri from going RTW, a change that makes Illinois an island completely surrounded by RTW neighbors.

Although they cannot sign the petition themselves, Illinois union members can volunteer to help collect signatures from registered voters in Missouri.

ADDITIONAL TRAININGS AND INFORMATION

Additional training sessions will be added on a rolling basis. To find the updated schedule, visit the Missouri AFL-CIO website.

People who attend the training sessions can take the training back to their local union.

For more information or to request a trainer, contact Missouri AFL-CIO Political Director Merri Berry at 314-420-8095.

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