Fearful of RTW defeat, Republican lawmakers threaten to move referendum vote to August primary


Jefferson City – Republican lawmakers who giddily passed the phony anti-worker, anti-union “right-to-work” (RTW) legislation last year only to have working Missourians turn in 310,567 petition signatures to halt its implementation and force a public vote, have now introduced legislation that would move the statewide referendum on Proposition A (RTW) from the November general election to the August primary, when statistically fewer people turn out to vote.

In the House, Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston), the sponsor of the House version of last year’s RTW legislation, has introduced a bill to move the vote from November to August. An identical measure was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dave Schatz (R-Sullivan).

It will be up to GOP leaders who control the House and Senate to decide if they want to pursue a bald-faced attempt to undermine the vote or table the measures and allow voters the unfettered chance to make their voices heard.


Sen. Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), a member of IBEW Local 1 and secretary-treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said Republicans want to change the election to August because statistically fewer voters go the polls in August.

“When the voters signed that petition, they signed it with the understanding that the election was going to be in November,” Hummel said. “If they are moving it to August, it is strictly for political reasons, which I don’t think is right. It’s certainly a thumb in the eye of voters. For something this important, I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to let a bigger population vote on it.”


“They know good and well that only 50 percent of the people vote in a primary election compared to the total number of people who vote in November,” Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO said. “Holly Rehder has at the top of her agenda passing RTW and she doesn’t care what she has to do to get it done, even if it means doing it in the dark of night.

“I’m confident our voters are going to be out there whether it’s in August or November,” Louis said. “If they want to play the wait and see game, we’ll be ready whenever they decide to do it.”

Indeed, some 700 workers turned out Feb. 26 for campaign kick-off rally at IBEW Local 1 in St. Louis to learn the truth about RTW and what they can do to help defeat it. Similar rallies are being held throughout the state.


So-called RTW (Proposition A) attacks the freedom of working people to join together to negotiate a fair return on their work by banning union represented businesses from negotiating labor contracts that assure workers will either pay dues or a smaller “fair share” fee to cover the union’s costs of bargaining and representation.

The goal of RTW is to financially starve unions – which under federal law must represent all workers in a union shop whether they are dues-paying members or not – thereby limiting the union’s ability to negotiate for and represent workers.

“Proposition A is wrong for Missouri,” said Jessica Podhola, spokesperson for We Are MO, the coalition of union members and working family allies behind last year’s petition drive and the ongoing effort to defeat RTW (Prop. A). “It’s not what it seems and the politicians who supported it know this. That’s why they are trying to thwart the will of the people by changing the date of the election to a time when less voters participate.


“Over 310,000 Missouri voters exercised their constitutional right by signing a petition to place this issue on the November ballot,” Podhola said. “Changing the date that this issue will appear on the ballot doesn’t change the fact that Proposition A will drive down wages and hurt Missouri families.”

It also doesn’t change the fact that historically, in Missouri, initiative petitions have been successful in defeating or overturning terrible legislation.

The last time Missouri voters faced a similar ballot initiative was in 1982, when they rejected a proposed law that would have allowed larger trucks on the state’s major highways.

In the 26 similar referenda dating to 1914, voters rejected all of the laws but two.

The last time RTW was on the ballot, in 1978, voters overwhelmingly defeated the measure.


Big money is already pouring into the pro-RTW campaign from out-of-state CEOs and dark money PACs bent on making Missouri a RTW state.

“A New Missouri” a group formed a year ago by Gov. Eric Greitens’ campaign staff to promote his pro-business, anti-worker agenda, recently contributed $750,000 to “Freedom to Work,” a group formed last year to stop the worker and union-backed effort to defeat the legislation.

A New Missouri also contributed $350,000 last fall to another pro-RTW group, “Missourians for Worker Freedom,” a Kansas City-based political action committee that shares the same address and phone number as yet another pro-RTW group, “Liberty Alliance.”

Freedom to Work received a $500,000 contribution last month from Richard Uihlein, the Illinois Republican mega-donor behind family-owned Uline packaging company. Uihlein has also contributed over the years to a number of conservative candidates and causes, including Greitens’ campaign for governor, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s bid for U.S. Senate.