Voters will be going to the polls next week and one of the most controversial items on the ballot isn’t a choice between candidates, but Missouri Proposition A, also known as the Right to Work. Both sides of the issue have plenty to say about why you should vote “yes” or “no,” but what does Prop A say and what do people who actually work in unionized shops think?

About Right to Work

Prop A, or Right to Work, was passed by the General Assembly in 2017, but was blocked from being implemented by a petition organized by unions, forcing it to be put to a vote by Missourians in the upcoming August 7 elections.

The ballot language reads, “A “yes” vote will adopt Senate Bill 19 ("right-to-work"), passed by the general assembly in 2017. If adopted, Senate Bill 19 will amend Missouri law to prohibit, as a condition of employment, forced membership in a labor organization (union) or forced payments of dues or fees, in full or pro-rata ("fair-share"), to a union. Senate Bill 19 will also make any activity which violates employees' rights provided by the bill illegal and ineffective and allow legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of another person violating or threatening to violate those employees' rights. Senate Bill 19 will not apply to union agreements entered into before the effective date of Senate Bill 19, unless those agreements are amended or renewed after the effective date of Senate Bill 19.

“A “no” vote will reject Senate Bill 19 ("right-to-work"), and will result in Senate Bill 19 not becoming Missouri law.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.”

What does that mean?

On its face, Prop A means that workers cannot be forced to join a union in Missouri. They also cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees, when they do not want to be part of the union.

Union supporters are saying that this will take bargaining power away from unions to negotiate salaries, benefits, and fair labor practices.

Arlene Veasman said, in a letter to the editor recently, “The U.S. Supreme Court already ruled that workers don’t have to join a union as a condition of employment. It also ruled workers have the guaranteed freedom to organize if they choose. A no vote on Prop A will protect workers/employees’ guaranteed freedom to organize for a union contract... The unions protect wages, union pensions, safety on the job.”

Those against Prop A are saying that the law will give more freedom to workers and make Missouri look more appealing to business and industry.

Dan Mehan, President of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and industry, said in a letter to the editor, “I’ve talked to hundreds of Missouri business owners and workers who live and work near or along the border of freedom to work states. They tell me their communities are losing jobs as they watch factories and businesses move to states that actually protect worker freedom.”

Current members of unions and workers who are hired into unionized shops, a relatively small percentage in Missouri will be directly affected by the law if it passes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 8.7 percent of wage earners in Missouri were members of a Union in 2017.

Zylpha Prather, a member of a union and a worker for EDP at Fort Leonard Wood, the company that provides workers for the mess halls, said, “Unions that work properly are a blessing. Unions that don’t work properly tear apart the people they are supposed to serve. If a business allows its employees to have a union, that should be the choice of those already employed there. If people not yet hired are upset about a union existing, they should choose a different business to work for. The proposition cannot fix an issue that is a matter of perspective; it can only muddle it worse. A better option would be to gear the proposition to assure that employees have more control of their unions, make sure unions and their elected officials are aware of laws and regulations as they apply to that union, and make the process of rolling over or removing ineffectual or corrupted elected officials out.”

Jeff Leonard, a local teacher, said, “One thing I don’t like about unions and Collective bargaining groups like MSTA and NEA/MNEA is the fact that, if you are a member, then some of your money may be used to promote a candidate that you absolutely oppose. To force people to pay this money just to work at a location or to have protection from lawsuits is wrong. That is why I am for Prop A.”

Andrew Decker, a union member as well, said, “This isn't about a choice; this allows government contracts to go to non union companies, that pay lower salaries, with less benefits. If you work for a union company and vote yes, you are voting to decrease pay and benefits or just lose your job to people whom will work for less.”

What are the numbers?

According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, 27 other states have passed variations of Prop A.

A report written by Frank Manzo IV, MPP, Policy Director of Illinois Economic Policy Institute and Robert Bruno, PhD, Director, Labor Education Program published on the University of Illinois’ website, compared the impact of Right to Work Laws in three Midwestern states, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin to three states that remained collective bargaining states, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.

The study is from 2016 and presented a clinical look at the numbers in states that have enacted the legislation. Those interested in reading the full results of the study can visit https://ler.illinois.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/RTW-in-the-Midwest-2010-2016.pdf

“As of 2016, there were significant differences between the two groups of states:

• Workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin earned 8.0 percent less per hour on average than their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. The median worker earned 5.9 percent less.

• The union membership rate was 11.5 percent in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin compared to 13.7 percent in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.

• The unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, marginally lower than the 5.1 percent rate in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.”

There is no way to predict how Prop A, if passed, will affect Missouri. Other states have reported an influx of jobs and industry, when they have passed Right to Work laws, while some statistics point to lower wages in those jobs.

We’d like to know what you think. What is your opinion on Prop A and why?