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Missouri Voters Reject Right-To-Work Law


Voters in Missouri overwhelmingly struck down that state's so-called right-to-work law in yesterday's primary. We should explain this. Right-to-work laws prevent unions from requiring employees to pay union dues even if those employees don't want to be part of the union. These laws are on the books in dozens of states. The vote is a major victory for labor groups in Missouri and may be good news for unions around the country. We are joined now by Jason Rosenbaum from St. Louis Public Radio. Hey, Jason.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So you were at a rally for union members, I understand, last night watching the votes roll in. What were people there telling you?

ROSENBAUM: It was euphoria. For many people in the organized labor movement in Missouri, the fight over right to work was a fight for their livelihoods. The idea behind right to work for many members of organized labor is if union members aren't required to pay dues, there'll be less money, and if there's less money, the contracts and benefits will be less beneficial. And you heard that from union members like Alexis Strader (ph), a nursing home worker who explained to me why this issue was so important to her.

ALEXIS STRADER: So basically, it will send a message all across the United States that Missouri is not backing down, that we're built on working families, and we want working families to succeed in life.

MARTIN: The vote was decisive. Maybe two-thirds of voters sided with organized labor. But it wasn't cheap, was it? They had to spend a lot of money to make this happen.

ROSENBAUM: In just 2018 alone, organized labor groups and their allies spent $15.5 million at $5,000 or more in donations. And it meant that national and state labor unions had to shell out a lot of resources and organizational manpower to make this happen.

MARTIN: So we should bring up the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this very issue just this past June, right? I mean, they said that unions can't force non-union workers to pay fees. Even if those employees can benefit from collective bargaining, if the employees don't want those protections, they shouldn't have to pay for them. That was a low point for unions. But with this vote going their way in Missouri, could it portend other victories like this in other states?

ROSENBAUM: I think the message this sends to organized labor groups around the country is that if labor unions can mobilize and repeal a right-to-work law in a state that Donald Trump won by almost 20 percentage points, then it stands to reason that they can go on the offensive in states that have a more even partisan divide, states like Michigan, states like Wisconsin, even states like Indiana which are more on the Republican side.

And I think that they can use Missouri as a template going forward to say, you can fight back, and you can roll back laws that are not advantageous to members of organized labor. So even though I don't know we'll be talking about this for months and months and months, I do think that members of labor unions will remember this for years to come as a way to go on the offensive against things that they perceive as anti-labor.

MARTIN: Jason Rosenbaum of St. Louis Public Radio. Thanks so much for your time, Jason.

ROSENBAUM: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.