Editorials

Vote no on Proposition A, a right-to-work measure that would lower wages and hurt workers

Missouri voters should reject a right-to-work proposal that will appear as Proposition A on Tuesday’s primary ballots.

If approved, the measure would outlaw compelling employees to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment. Supporters wrongly argue that it protects workers’ freedom.

Pro-labor organizations counter that right to work undermines collective bargaining and lowers wages while effectively hastening the decline of organized labor. We strongly agree.

A right-to-work bill was signed into law last year by then-Gov. Eric Greitens. A petition initiative put this measure in front of voters.

A no vote on Tuesday would repeal the right-to-work law. A yes vote would make Missouri a right-to-work state, which would be a costly mistake.

Wages in right-to-work states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-right-to-work states, according to a study from the Economic Policy Institute. As a result a full-time, full-year worker in a right-to-work state will earn about $1,558 less annually.

Twenty-eight states have adopted right-to-work laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Missouri’s election is viewed as a potential bellwether for the right-work movement, though, and a consequential test of unions’ clout.

As a result, national organizations on both sides have sent money and manpower to Missouri in an effort to sway Tuesday’s outcome. Despite the flood of misleading mailers and ominous ads, there’s no evidence that right to work will accelerate economic growth in the state. It will clear the way for employers to pay the lowest wages possible, leaving Missouri workers struggling to make ends meet.

Proponents of right to work argue it gives workers the freedom to choose whether to support the union at their workplace. But Missouri workers already can opt out of full union membership and full union dues.

They can be required to pay fees that cover unions’ collective bargaining and representation services — a reasonable provision since non-dues-paying workers benefit from collective bargaining, just as their dues-paying counterparts do.

Right-to-work supporters say that without the policy, Missouri will be at a competitive disadvantage in attracting new employers. But union-backed opponents correctly argue that it creates a free-rider problem for unions that are required to represent workers who aren’t paying for their services.

Workplace policies that protect employees and boost middle-class incomes are what Missouri needs most.

To be sure, unions have earned their bad reputations in some cases. The protracted labor negotiations for the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport highlighted some of unions’ failings.

If Proposition A is rejected Tuesday, Missouri labor leaders should not view that as an unqualified stamp of approval. Rather, unions must work harder going forward to justify their existence, avoid discriminatory practices and listen to the concerns of rank-and-file workers.

Making Missouri a right-to-work state isn’t the way to address what ails unions. Give workers in the state a fighting chance by voting no on Proposition A.

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