On February 6, 2017, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed Senate Bill 19, which was designed to make Missouri the country’s 28th right-to-work state, effective August 28, 2017. Unions, fearing significant revenue losses, mounted petition drives to reverse the action of the legislature and governor. On August 18, 2017, the unions filed signatures in support of Referendum Petition 2018-R002 with Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. To be valid, this petition was required to have been signed by at least five percent of the registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. Following review by the office of the Missouri secretary of state and local election boards, on November 22, 2017, Missouri Secretary of State Ashcroft issued a certificate of sufficiency certifying that Referendum Petition 2018-R002 had been supported by the requisite number of signatures and that the question of right-to-work would be presented to Missouri’s voters in November 2018 (unless a different date is designated by the Missouri General Assembly). According to Missouri Constitution Article III, Section 52(b), right-to-work will become the law of Missouri only if ratified by the Missouri electorate.
While it is impossible to predict how right-to-work will fare with the Missouri electorate, the data released by the secretary of state regarding the petition signatures is interesting.
The data is interesting for at least three reasons:
First, a large percentage of the signatures submitted by the unions for the Fifth and First Congressional Districts were invalid—approximately 47 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
Second, the high rates of invalid signatures obtained by the unions may ultimately call into question the validity of authorization cards obtained by unions in organizing campaigns (and may further fuel employer resistance to “card check” union representation).
Finally, in four of the eight districts (the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh), after discarding invalid signatures, the unions exceeded the required threshold by three or fewer percentage points.
The Ballot Question
Unless the Missouri General Assembly designates a different date, on November 6, 2018, Missouri’s voters will be presented with this ballot question for a vote on right-to-work:
Do the people of the state of Missouri want to adopt Senate Bill 19 ("Right-to-Work") as passed by the general assembly in 2017, which prohibits as a condition of employment the forced membership in a labor organization (union) or forced payments of dues in full or pro-rata (fair-share); make any activity which violates employees' rights illegal and ineffective; allow legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of another person violating or threatening to violate employees' rights; and which shall not apply to union agreements entered into before the effective date of Senate Bill 19?
State and local government entities expect no costs or savings.
All states which border Missouri, with one exception (Illinois), are right to work states. No state capital of a state that allows the collection of union dues as a condition of employment (other than Illinois) is within 500 miles of Missouri’s state capital. Within approximately one year, we will learn whether Missourians finally have the “right to work” and how the map will look.