Workers collect 300,000 plus Missouri signatures to stop right to work for less
Hundreds of union members and volunteers crowded into IBEW Local 1 Hall in St. Louis to hear the news that volunteers had collected more than 300,000 signatures on petitions to repeal Missouri’s phony “right-to-work” law by placing it on the Nov. 2018 ballot for voters to decide. | Labor Tribune

ST. LOUIS (PAI) — Workers and their allies capped a successful petition drive by collecting more than 300,000 notarized signatures of voters to put repeal of Missouri’s controversial so-called “right to work” law on the referendum ballot in November 2018.

The petitions, turned in to Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft weeks ahead of the mandatory late August deadline, also automatically stopped implementation of the anti-worker, anti-union law, which the GOP-dominated state legislature approved this year – despite worker, business and union lobbying – and right-wing GOP Gov. Eric Greitens eagerly signed.

Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis and other union leaders announced the results of the signature gathering campaign in a rally on August 8 at IBEW Local 1 hall in St. Louis.

The Missouri law is part of a national campaign by anti-worker, anti-union corporate interests, allied with the radical right, to destroy workers and crush unions, by taking away money unions need to defend workers and their families.

Missouri’s “right-to-work” law, which lawmakers passed and Greitens signed in February, was set to take effect Aug. 28, allowing freeloaders to enjoy all the benefits of union representation without paying one red cent to support running the union. The law has one goal: to cripple and destroy unions. The apparent success of the petition drive stops that – for now.

But Ashcroft said the law can’t be enforced if working Missourians with the We Are Missouri coalition turned in at least 100,000 certified signatures. Louis told supporters at the rally the signatures were to be submitted on August 18 following a rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Jefferson City. And they were triple the number the coalition needed.

“What you’ve accomplished will go down in the history books!’’ Louis told the enthusiastic crowd, emphasizing that union volunteers had collected enough signatures in each of the state’s eight congressional districts – even though only signatures from six were needed – to put the measure on the ballot, and that signatures are still being collected.

“It really is humbling to know what you’ve accomplished will go down in the history books as being the first time that every single congressional district has qualified to be part of putting something on the ballot,” Louis said. “Eight of eight! There’s nothing like it!”

But Louis and other union leaders warned that the fight to repeal the anti-worker law is only beginning. Dark money tied to right-wing think tanks is pouring into the state to thwart the repeal effort. Greitens’ own nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., has already donated $350,000 to the cause.

Wearing a classic “Right-to-Work is a Rip-Off!” cap from the 1978 ballot fight, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, congratulates union members and volunteers. John Karloff/IBEW Local 1 photo

Louis, wearing a classic “Right-to-Work is a Rip-Off!” cap from the successful 1978 fight to defeat a “right-to-work” ballot measure in the Show Me State, spelled out its true impact on union and non-union workers, while expressing confidence that the anti-union, anti-worker law will be defeated for ALL workers in Missouri.

The 1978 referendum saw RTW go down the drain by more than 300,000 votes and a 60 percent-40 percent margin. Pro-worker Democrats also won a raft of state offices that year.

“We’re going to end this attack,” Louis said. “It’s not just on us, brothers and sisters. It’s on every working family in this state. When our wages go down and our pensions go down and our health and welfare goes down and we start getting screwed daily on the job, what do you think happens to people that don’t have a union contract? It’s worse for them – worse.

“So we’re not here just for ourselves. We’re here for every worker in this state, and we’re taking it back. We’re taking this state back because it belongs to the working people of this state, not Eric Greitens!”

“Each and every one of you in here is making history today,” Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council told the standing room only crowd at Local 1. “Whether you turned in a sheet with two signatures or 2,000 signatures, you made history.

“We’re fighting against people that hate us even more than they did back in 1978, and with less people,” White said. “And you should be proud of that. No one has done what we’ve done before. No one has registered as many people as we did. No one has registered as many people in every corner of the state.

“Every person in here belongs to a different organization that worked together on this,” White said. “We had UFCW people working next to Electricians in Springfield. We had Bricklayers going into Phelps and up to Dixon County. We had Teachers running our stuff up from Columbia. We had Pipefitters…. Every organization in our area kicked in.”

“We’ve seen more togetherness in this campaign than I’ve seen in the 20, 30 years that I’ve been doing this,” White said. “And I can tell you that that’s the only way that we win. When you see SEIU members next to Pipefitters, when you see Teachers next to Electricians and Teamsters next to UFCW members, that’s the only way that we get this done.

“We can do this,” White said, “but you’ve got to keep it on the front burner. Talk to people that you normally wouldn’t talk with about ‘right-to-work’ when you’re out at your kids’ ballgames, when you’re at your meetings for your church, when you’re at your social clubs.

“The only way we beat this back a year from now is if we make friends with people we maybe haven’t talked with before and build coalitions with folks that maybe we’re a little uncomfortable talking to. That’s how we win.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Tim Rowden
Tim Rowden

Tim Rowden is an award-winning writer and editor with 25 years of progressive experience in daily, weekly and online journalism, media relations, and advocacy journalism, including editor of the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, and reporter and bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Press Associates Inc.
Press Associates Inc.

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.

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