Missouri voters reject anti-union law through referendum

Casey Quinlan

Casey Quinlan Policy Reporter, Think Progress

On Tuesday night, Missouri voters delivered a strong rebuke of anti-union policies, rejecting a right-to-work law that would have weakened unions in the state.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, 67 percent of voters voted against the measure, Proposition A. The law would have allowed workers to reap the benefits of a union contract while opting out of paying union dues. With less reasons to feel compelled to join a union, many workers will decide not to. Twenty-seven states currently have such laws.

This is the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-union ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that voters have had a chance to express their views on what powers labor unions should be able to exercise.

Despite these developments, Missouri voters supported unions’ power to collect money in order to bolster collective bargaining and other union services. In February of last year, Missouri Eric Greitens (R), who has since left office after a sexual assault investigation, signed the right-to-work bill, but before it became law, petitioners gathered 250,000 signatures to allow voters to consider it as a referendum.

In response to the victory, Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in a statement to The New York Times, “It shows how out of touch those institutions are. How out of touch the Republican legislature in Missouri is, how out of touch the Supreme Court is.”

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, voters in both rural and urban areas strongly opposed the law. A deeply conservative county, St. Charles, saw 72 percent of voters cast their ballots in opposition to the law. Sixty percent of voters in the state also rejected a right-to-work measure when it was on the ballot in 1978.

United Auto Workers union member Michelle Whitley told the Post-Dispatch, “I’ve seen the facts of states that have laws like right to work. It’s just not a good thing for our state.”

Workers in states with right-to-work laws don’t fare as well as counterparts in states without these laws, research shows. The laws are associated with lower wages and minimal benefits for both workers in and outside of unions. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes 3.2 percent less in their hourly wages compared to an average worker in a state without this type of law.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, there isn’t substantial evidence to suggest any causal pattern of economic indicators improving or declining in states with right-to-work laws. Although a 2007 study found that these laws can increase the number of businesses in a state, the study stated that the findings do not mean non-unionized workers will benefit in any real way with higher wages, employment, or per-capita personal income.

A recent Gallup poll showed U.S. approval of labor unions is at 61 percent, up five percentage points from last year and 13 points above the all-time low in 2009. There was an increase in union membership last year, despite the long-term trend of union membership decline, and there are signs that millennials are energizing the labor movement.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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