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Missouri Voters Have a Chance to Overturn GOP’s Union-Busting Law

Teddy Wilson

“The evidence is clear that these laws do not boost employment, they simply kneecap unions and hurt workers’ wages,” said Janelle Jones, analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

Missouri voters on August 7 will determine the fate of a law that would severely restrict the ability of private sector labor unions to bargain with employers on behalf of their members for better wages and benefits—a move that would hurt union and non-union workers across the state. 

Former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens in February 2017 signed SB 19, which prohibits employers from requiring workers to “become, remain, or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization or pay dues or other charges required of labor organization members as a condition of employment.” 

This comes as the U.S. Supreme Court in a June decision undermined the ability of public sector labor unions to collectively bargain.

Recently published research finds that the law would negatively affect Missouri workers—regardless of union membership. Laws restricting unions’ collective bargaining power have resulted in decreased wages and and fewer job opportunities, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). If the law were implemented, an estimated 60,000 fewer Missourians would be covered by a union contract, according to EPI.

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Janelle Jones, economic analyst at EPI, said in a statement that the evidence contradicts the claims made by proponents of anti-union laws, known as “right-to-work” laws

“The evidence is clear that these laws do not boost employment, they simply kneecap unions and hurt workers’ wages,” Jones said. “Missourians should consider the negative impact these laws have had on wages and job quality in other states—and ignore false claims that they would boost the economy or attract new businesses.”

By pushing through the “right-to-work” law, Greitens fulfilled a campaign promise and the Republican-controlled state legislature achieved a longstanding objective. Organized labor responded by collecting more than 310,000 signatures to force the law to be approved by voters on a ballot measure.

Twenty-seven states have implemented so-called right-to-work laws, which make it illegal for a unionized workplace to require all workers pay union dues in exchange for being represented in negotiations with management. These types of anti-union laws have been pushed by legislation mills like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and lawmakers have introduced “right-to-work” bills based on copycat legislation drafted by ALEC.

Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wrote in a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the ballot measure would grow the state’s economy, create job opportunities and increase worker wages. Mehan pointed to data that shows the average wages in states with anti-union laws are $2,250 higher than in states which have not passed anti-union laws.

Making claims about the economic gains in states that have implemented anti-unions laws based on aggregate data may be misleading. Studies touting the economic benefits of anti-union laws “failed to control for a host of factors that would affect employment,” according to the EPI report.EPI found “no causal pattern” between anti-union laws and economic growth.

Lindsey Baker, director of research at the Missouri Budget Project, told the Public New Service that the law would not only affect workers’ wages but the tax revenue collected by the state.

“Right-to-work legislation would further erode the middle class in Missouri by lowering wages and reducing access to affordable health insurance,” Baker said. “But there are also some pretty serious implications for Missouri’s state budget. Lower wages in Missouri would reduce our already diminished tax base.”

Missourians appear to favor rejecting the law: 56 percent of voters said that they would vote against the ballot measure and in favor of repealing the law, according a poll conducted by the Remington Research Group and published by the Missouri Times.

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