Government & Politics

Unions spending big to repeal Missouri right-to-work law

Union members rally against right to work law

Opponents of right to work dropped off 310,000 petitions seeking a vote to repeal the law in 2018.
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Opponents of right to work dropped off 310,000 petitions seeking a vote to repeal the law in 2018.

The effort to repeal Missouri’s right-to-work law got a big infusion of cash this week, as a group affiliated with labor unions donated $350,000.

The money came from St. Louis-based Committee to Protect MO Families, a coalition funded largely by labor unions. The donation Monday went to We Are Missouri, which is the political action committee that collected enough signatures to put a repeal of right-to-work on next year’s statewide ballot.

Republicans have sought to turn Missouri into a right-to-work state for decades. In February, they got their wish when Gov. Eric Greitens signed the legislation, which allows employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying unions for the cost of being represented.

Labor unions responded by collecting more than 300,000 signatures to freeze the law and put it before voters in 2018.

Since May, labor unions and groups affiliated with unions have poured nearly $2 million in large donations into We Are Missouri.

Unions used a referendum petition to put right to work on next year’s ballot. Citizens may call a referendum on any measure approved by the General Assembly and not vetoed by the governor. Although the referendum petition was regularly used in Missouri during the early 20th century, the last time it was used was 1982.

Of the 26 times a referendum has been placed on the ballot, voters have rejected actions by the General Assembly all but twice.

The governor of Missouri signed legislation enacting a "right-to-work" law on Monday, February 6, in Jefferson City.

Meanwhile, right-to-work proponents are pondering a petition of their own that would ask voters to amend the state’s consitution to include a right-to-work law. The Secretary of State’s office signed off on the language of the pro-right-to-work intititive, opening the door for signatures to be collected.

A pair of PACs have established to support a Missouri right-to-work law — Liberty Alliance and Missourians for Worker Freedom.

Liberty Alliance raised $800,000 in large donations this year, with the biggest being a $350,000 check from a Kansas City-based nonprofit called American Democracy Alliance. The group also got $100,000 checks from Joplin businessman David Humphreys, St. Joseph businessman Stan Herzog and Illinois businessman Richard Uihlein.

Missourians for Worker Freedom has taken in $500,000 in large donations this year. American Democracy Alliance chipped in $150,000, while Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit A New Missouri Inc. gave $350,000.

The donations from nonprofits obscure the actual origin of the money because nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock