Unions are celebrating Missouri voters’ decision on Tuesday to strike down a state “right-to-work” law and promising to fight for more political victories in the future.
“Missouri is the latest sign of a true groundswell, and working people are just getting started,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
Sixty-seven percent of Missouri voters rejected a referendum that would have made the Show-Me State the 28th state to forbid public- and private-sector employers from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees. Such laws have spread in recent years across the historically union-friendly Midwest.
The win in Missouri came after a major defeat for labor earlier this summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that nonunion members in unionized jobs can’t be required to pay union fees. The decision took away a source of revenue for unions and could prompt some members to leave.
But union leaders say the decision energized their members and point to other signs that the labor movement is strengthening. Teacher walkouts in three right-to-work states — West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona — won concessions from legislators earlier this year, for instance.
Unions have worked with Democratic lawmakers in some states to pass laws intended to strengthen unions in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
Unions spent tens of millions on the Missouri referendum campaign, vastly outspending supporters, according to Ballotpedia, a nonprofit encyclopedia of American politics and elections. About 9 percent of Missourians are union members, according to federal statistics.
Supporters of the state right-to-work law cast the victory as one not for Missourians, but for powerful out-of-state groups.
“These out-of-state groups sent money to Missouri because they were fearful of losing out if Missourians had the power to stop their paychecks from being siphoned to pad union coffers and play politics,” Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement widely quoted by news media.