On February 6, 2017, Missouri became the 28th state to enact a right-to-work law. The bill, passed by the Show Me State’s Republican-controlled state legislature, was signed into law by newly-elected Governor Eric Greitens. A similar measure was vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon last year.
The bill applies to both public sector and private sector employment, with the exception of railroads and airlines. Federal employers, and employers operating on exclusive federal enclaves, are also exempt from the law.
The new law provides that no employee may be required as a condition of employment to become, remain, or refrain from becoming or remaining, a union member. Nor may employees be required to tender dues, fees, or assessments of any kind to a labor organization. Also barred is any requirement that employees make a “dues equivalent” payment to a charitable organization.
The law contains both criminal and civil sanctions. Violation of the law is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $750 dollars and up to 15 days in jail. Prosecuting attorneys and circuit attorneys are directed to “use all means at their command to ensure effective enforcement” of the law. Private parties injured by violation, or threatened violation, are entitled to injunctive relief, damages, and an award of attorneys’ fees.
The effective date of the law will be August 28, 2017, 90 days following the close of the regular legislative session, as efforts to enact the bill immediately as an “emergency measure” failed. As competing versions of the bill wound their way through the legislative process, language was also added that “grandfathers” existing collective bargaining agreements. Thus, the law by its terms does not apply to any labor agreement entered into before the effective date of the law, but will apply to any agreement once renewed, extended, amended, or modified after the law’s effective date. Banking on inclusion of the grandfathering language, some unions have sought extensions of existing contracts to put in place longer-term union-security arrangements in order to delay the law’s impact.
Initiatives are already under way to blunt the force of the law by other means. In the closing days of Governor Nixon ‘s administration, labor advocates pressed for approval of initiative petitions in hopes of placing a state constitutional amendment prohibiting right-to-work laws before the voters. It remains to be seen whether those petitions will secure the necessary support to be placed on the ballot.