On Missouri Voters’ Repeal of Anti-Union ‘Right to Work’ Law

In response to the Proposition A veto referendum in which Missouri voters resoundingly repealed Senate Bill 19, the state’s right-to-work law, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, issued the following statement: 

“This remarkable referendum is testament to the power of working people joining together—precisely the phenomenon that GOP lawmakers in Missouri tried to crush by enacting their so-called ‘right to work’ law.

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“The politicians miscalculated their support and underestimated Missouri’s voters, who knew that ‘right to work’ was all wrong for them.

“The voters understood that ‘right to work’ is code for something far less benign: ceding even more power to corporations, and giving them the right to reap ever-larger profits on the backs of ordinary Missourians required to work more, for less.

“Workers make nearly $9,000 less in right-to-work states. Right-to-work states have higher poverty rates, more workplace fatalities, and less investment in education.

“Sensibly, Missouri voters delivered a resounding no. The GOP legislature’s vision of aggrandizing corporations at the expense of working people was one they wanted no part of.

“Indeed, the people of Missouri have had more than their fill of harmful policies thrust upon them in recent years by a Republican-led legislature run by business lobbyists. When the City of St. Louis raised its local minimum wage to $10 last year, the legislature quickly stepped in to reverse the increase and deny the city’s residents nearly $35 million in raises. The legislature also has continued to thwart attempts to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City.

“And then there was the time in 2015 when state legislators, who had already cut the maximum duration of unemployment benefits to 20 weeks (down from 26), voted to slash those weeks further— to as few as 13—in a procedure that the Missouri Supreme Court later ruled was unconstitutional. They’ve repeatedly tried to enact those benefit cuts ever since.

“The people of Missouri have simply had enough. They’re taking their democracy back.

“This victory is just the latest example of what’s possible when working people join together to fight for good jobs and expose the con behind the endless attacks on workers and their unions.

“Following on the heels of successful strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma—where people of all political stripes joined educators to demand good schools for kids and good jobs for teachers—today’s vote is a pointed reminder of the power that ordinary people can wield when they join together.

“It also underscores why powerful corporate interests will pull out all the stops to undermine collective action by ordinary Americans. As voters in the Show-Me State showed all of us today, however, it’s a mistake to bet against the people.”

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