Senate Bill 19, with the official ballot title of “Proposition A,” will be on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot. The concept of the proposition is also commonly referred to as “Right to Work.” While there is no shortage of yard signs and bumper stickers regarding the bill, what exactly does it entail?
The “fair ballot language” version of the bill, as provided by on the Missouri State Senate website, reads, in part:
“A ‘yes’ vote will adopt Senate Bill 19 ("right-to-work"), passed by the general assembly in 2017. If adopted, Senate Bill 19 will amend Missouri law to prohibit, as a condition of employment, forced membership in a labor organization (union) or forced payments of dues or fees, in full or pro-rata ("fair-share"), to a union.”
This means that employees working at companies represented by unions would not be required to pay union dues in order to receive benefits incurred by the activities of the union by which they were represented. Some members could still elect to support the union financially if they choose. Employees also would not be required to be a member of a labor organization as a condition of their employment.
The second part of the bill description states:
“Senate Bill 19 will also make any activity which violates employees' rights provided by the bill illegal and ineffective and allow legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of another person violating or threatening to violate those employees' rights. Senate Bill 19 will not apply to union agreements entered into before the effective date of Senate Bill 19, unless those agreements are amended or renewed after the effective date of Senate Bill 19 … If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.”
This section means that individuals who choose not to pay union dues would be protected from harassment or injury that could arise because of their decision.
A “no” vote means the right to work bill will not become law.
This means that, if the bill is rejected, Missouri employees working in union shops would be required to be a member of that union and would be required to support the union with the payment of union dues.
Ray McCarty is president/CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri, an organization that supports “Right to Work,” partly because he said some companies require a state to be “Right to Work” before they will consider locating their operations in that state.
“If we are a ‘Right to Work’ state, we will be eligible to compete for the jobs provided by such companies,” McCarty said. “We all know Mexico, Missouri, has a long and deep history of manufacturing shoes and bricks, all of which have left town. (Right to Work) would allow Missouri, and Mexico, to compete for some jobs that are passing on Missouri now because we are not a ‘Right to Work’ state.”
McCarty stated that, if unions do a good job of providing training, pensions and other benefits to workers, “the worker will probably see value in their union membership dues.”
“Union leadership may not like it, but union workers should love having the power to require their union leaders to work harder for them,” he said.
McCarty said that Associated Industries of Missouri supports the “worker freedom” and potential for new job opportunities that could be drawn to the state if Proposition A were approved.
Erin Schrimpf, speaking on behalf of the “We Are Missouri” campaign, said that Right to Work is a deceptive label.
“The effects of Prop A would reach even non-union workplaces,” said Schrimpf. “When we look at data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor statistics, there is a stark reduction in wages and benefits in Right to Work states for both union and non-union workers.”
Schrimpf said that the proposition would lower wages and benefits, “leading to less economic security for working families (which) will reduce revenues and economic activity in our state.”
The Missouri Secretary of State’s office declined to comment on the bill.
Twenty-eight states currently have similar "Right to Work" legislation. Those states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming (Missouri is included in this list because Senate Bill 19 was passed by the general assembly in 2017).
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonprofit think tank that researches “the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States,” according to its website, released a study this week that analyzed this legislation’s impact on workers.
The study stated that, while the “unions are required to represent every employee covered by a union contract,” in states with Right to Work legislation “this, in practice, means providing expensive benefits to many workers who have not paid their fair share.”
It also found that the average employee earned 3.1 percent less in hourly wages in Right to Work states than the average worker with similar characteristics in non-“Right to Work” states.
The study compared Missouri with neighboring states, finding that “we could expect that nearly 60,000 fewer Missourians working in the private sector would be covered by a union contract if (Right to Work) were implemented in Missouri,” based on analysis of the impact that the “Right to Work” law has had in Oklahoma.
If wages fall, individuals would pay less on income taxes. Mike Louis, President of Missouri AFL-CIO, said that could have an effect across the board, including when it comes to education.
“As people pay less in income tax to the state, the state’s income falls and they’re not able to put as much money into education,” Louis said. He also said the legislation could have an impact on small business owners, stating that when “people make less money, they can spend less money (and) their spending power goes down.”
When it comes to safety in the workplace, Louis cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stating that “in Right to Work states where these laws have passed, the on-the-job mortality rate is 50 percent higher, simply because the safety rules aren’t enforced like they are in non-‘Right to Work’ states.”
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,189 fatal occupational injuries documented nationwide in 2016 (the most recent data set available). Approximately 56 percent of those — 2,955 fatal injuries — occurred in "Right to Work" states. That percentage does not include data from the states of Missouri or Kentucky since the two states did not pass Right to Work statutes until 2017.
The fate of Proposition A will be up to voters when they head to the polls Aug. 7. Absentee ballots are now available at the Audrain County Clerk’s office and can also be requested via mail before Wednesday, Aug. 1.