Opponents of Missouri’s anti-worker
Proposition A seem to have done everything right. First, they collected more
than three times the signatures needed to get a referendum on the ballot to
repeal the state’s right-to-work law.
St. Louis Local 1 apprentices Major Harper, left, and Dave Mayer were among the canvassers in the city’s Jeff VanderLou neighborhood on July 22 urging residents to vote no on Proposition A.
Soon after, unions and allies quickly raised the funds to make sure working people could compete with big-moneyed special interests on television and radio. IBEW members, alongside other unions and working families’ advocates, have been knocking on doors and making phone calls urging voters to vote “no.”
Even a well-known actor, born and raised in Missouri, recorded a radio ad urging a “no” vote.
Now, it’s time for citizens of the Show-Me State to finish the job by going to the polls on Aug. 7 and defeating Proposition A.
“I think it is certainly ours to lose,” said Missouri political director Rudy Chavez, a former president of Kansas City Local 124. “But until our people go to the polls and vote ‘no,’ I’m not saying anything.”
A “no” vote on Proposition A is a vote to overturn the right-to-work bill passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Eric Greitens in early 2017.
The vote is being watched closely throughout the nation as a key test to stem the tide of right-to-work laws, which give employees the benefits of a union contract without contributing financially toward it. Research shows the laws contribute to a 3.1 percent average drop in the pay of working people and a poverty rate 15 percent higher than in states that haven’t passed right-to-work.
President Donald Trump won Missouri by 19 points in the 2016 election and the GOP not only controls most of the Missouri statewide offices, but it also holds a supermajority in the Senate and House.
Chavez said Local 124 members will make about 40,000 personal calls to IBEW members and retirees reminding them to vote “no” before Election Day. They’ve spent several Saturdays canvassing homes across the western part of the state.
The situation is similar to the east. St. Louis Local 1 members have mirrored the calls and home visits and hosted rallies to get out the vote, including in the southeastern Missouri city of Cape Girardeau, where Local 1 also has an office and jurisdiction. Other local unions in the state have staged phone banks and canvassed homes.
“Local 1 members have answered the call and are doing all in their power to ensure Proposition A lands in the trash heap of history,” said Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs. “As we head into the final days of our campaign, I know they won’t let up and am confident working families will be victorious come Election Day.”
The state constitution allows for a referendum on any legislation passed by the General Assembly if 5 percent of the voters in the prior gubernatorial election sign a petition requesting one. The signatures must be gathered from at least two-thirds of the state’s eight Congressional districts.
The IBEW and other right-to-work opponents collected more than 310,000 signatures when slightly less than 100,000 would have sufficed. That put the issue on the ballot, but Greitens, in one of his final acts in office, moved the referendum up from the November general election to avoid an expected groundswell of Democratic support for Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is trying to beat a well-funded Republican challenger.
“The Republican Legislature continues to play games and has moved the moved the referendum to August,” said St. Louis state senator and Local 1 member Jake Hummel, who is running for re-election. “This August election, I hope you’ll join me in voting ‘no’ on Proposition A. Protect your pay.”
Greitens resigned his position in May due to the fallout of allegations of sexual assault and a failure to report campaign contributions, but Proposition A still has some high-profile defenders – most notably Greitens’ successor, Mike Parson.
St. Louis Local 1 members discuss plans before going door-to-door urging a no vote on Proposition A during the Aug. 7 Missouri primary.
Still, momentum looks to be on the side of its opponents.
“I’ve knocked on a few doors myself,” Chavez said. “I’ve heard from people who have told me, ‘I’m not a member of a union and I don’t have much use for a union. But I’m voting no on this because I don’t think the government has any right to get involved in a relationship between an employee and his employer.’”
Among the voices coming out against Proposition A: Golden Globe-winning actor John Goodman, who grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Afton. Goodman taped a radio spot paid for by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, of which Goodman is a member.
Goodman reminds listeners that most of the funding for Proposition A is coming from interests outside of Missouri, including “dark money” fundraising in which donors try to hide their identity.
“The bill will not give you the right to work,” said Goodman, who is best known for playing Dan Conner on “Roseanne.” “Instead, it gives big business and out-of-state corporations the right to pay you less than they do now.
“Show the politicians that Missouri values hard work and a robust middle class. Vote ‘no’ on Proposition A.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial page also urged Missourians to vote “no” on Proposition A. The Springfield News-Leader, which is in deeply conservative southwest Missouri, recently ran a story with a headline that read: “Unions are winning right-to-work’s fundraising battle. It’s not even close.”
Now, IBEW members and their allies hope to carry that momentum to Election Day by showing up at the polls in record numbers.
“There’s a reason the Republicans moved this to the August ballot,” Chavez said. “They know the numbers. They’re counting us having trouble getting our people out. We can’t let that happen.”
Click here to listen to Goodman’s radio ad in full. Click here to read a story that includes a video of AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, an IBEW member, speaking out against Proposition A during a rally in Kansas City.