Missouri Voters Kill Right-to-Work Law Signed into Law By Former Governor Greitens

August 2018

On August 7, 2018, Missouri voters officially decided that Missouri will not join the majority of other states around the country to become a “right-to-work” (RTW) state. The controversial RTW issue, which Lewis Rice previously reported on here and here, emerged from a prolonged legislative process, only to be later overturned through Missouri’s rarely-invoked referendum process.

In early 2017, after the RTW issue was heavily debated during the 2016 general election, Missouri’s then-Governor Eric Greitens signed legislation to make Missouri the nation’s 28th RTW state. Under the RTW law, no Missouri worker could be forced to join a union or make payments to a union as a condition of employment.

Both proponents and opponents agreed that the effect of the new law would have been significant. In non-RTW states, almost all collective bargaining agreements contain a “union security clause” that compels workers to pay for union representation as a condition of their employment. These funds enhance a union’s leverage in negotiating favorable wages, benefits, and workplace conditions on behalf of its members. In RTW states, however, where union security clauses are prohibited, some employees opt not to pay these fees, thereby diminishing their unions’ resources and, in turn, their power to negotiate and enforce their labor agreements.

As a result, Missouri’s RTW law was set to significantly tip the scale in favor of employers in negotiating future collective bargaining agreements with labor unions. However, shortly before Missouri’s RTW law was slated to go in effect on August 28, 2017, opponents of the law submitted enough signatures to invoke Missouri’s referendum process, which allows voters to seek the repeal of a recently enacted law via a popular vote. This action put what became known as “Prop A” on the ballot in Missouri’s recent primary election for the voters to decide the official fate of Missouri’s RTW law.

On August 7, 2018, the people of Missouri spoke and voted “No on Prop A,” by a two-to-one margin. The vote will be seen as a major victory for labor unions, who argue that Missouri’s RTW law was a government overreach into private contracts and would suppress employee wages, benefits, and working conditions.

For employers, this result means that nothing will change and newly-entered and renewed labor agreements may still contain union security clauses. Thus, represented employees will still be required to pay unions for their representation, providing much-needed revenue to organized labor.  Though the issue will surely resurface in a future election cycle, for now, unions will likely not see their influence diminish as precipitously as had been predicted when the RTW first passed.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the referendum repealing Missouri's RTW law, please feel free to reach out to a Lewis Rice Labor & Employment attorney.

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