Missouri Has Just Made It Easier to Work: Here’s Why this Matters

Missouri has secured a victory for worker’s rights, but unions are already working to overturn it.

On Monday, Governor Eric Greitens signed legislation that makes Missouri the 28th state to adopt right-to-work legislation, which gives workers the right to choose whether they want to join a union. However, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis and NAACP President Rod Chapel have filed a petition to fight back. They now have until August 28 to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the ballot as an initiative.

Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, predicted that, in time, even the people who opposed this change will come to appreciate how it helped provide better jobs for Missouri workers.” This prediction would be in keeping with other states, which found themselves incredibly attractive to businesses after embracing right-to-work legislation.

This prediction would be in keeping with other states, which found themselves incredibly attractive to businesses after embracing right-to-work legislation.

While federal law constrains private-sector labor relations, several states have enacted right-to-work legislation as a way of asserting greater control on this issue. In Missouri’s last legislative section, right-to-work was on the table. But Governor Jay Nixon vetoed the bill. Nixon’s campaign received a $50,000 donation from United Auto Workers union less than a week after the veto. Many said this appeared to be pay for play politics given that Nixon was term-limited.

In his veto message, Nixon said “this extreme measure would take our state backward, squeeze the middle-class, lower wages for Missouri families.” However, history has shown us that this is not the case when workers are given the freedom to choose.

Since a constitutional amendment took effect more than 10 years ago in Oklahoma, that state’s economy has flourished with private-sector employee compensation growing faster than the national average. Between 2001 and 2013, private non-farm compensation in Oklahoma grew by 24.5 percent when adjusted for inflation, more than two-and-a-half times faster than the national average. This growth was more than triple that of their non right-to-work neighbors (New Mexico, Colorado, and Missouri). Before right-to-work legislation, compensation growth in Oklahoma was 12 percent slower than the national average.

Since a constitutional amendment took effect more than 10 years ago in Oklahoma, that state’s economy has flourished with private-sector employee compensation growing faster than the national average.

Ryan Johnson of the Missouri Alliance for Freedom says that right-to-work legislation makes sense.

“The case for right-to-work is as much moral as it is fiscal,” Johnson said. “At its base right-to-work is about employees having the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union.”

“The case for right-to-work is as much moral as it is fiscal”

New Hampshire could be the 29th state to embrace right-to-work. Like Missouri, previous right-to-work legislation was vetoed by a Democratic governor. But should the legislation get to the governor’s desk again, it will land with Republican Chris Sununu, who is expected to sign it. New Hampshire would be the first northeastern state to support such legislation.

National versions of right-to-work are also under discussion. Earlier this month, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) introduced the National Right to Work Act, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act to give workers the option to join a union rather than forcing them to do so.

“Right-to-work states, like South Carolina, have seen first-hand that job creation and economic growth comes from expanded freedoms,” Wilson said. “We need to expand common-sense reforms, like those in the National Right to Work Act to protect American workers and create jobs.”

While President Barack Obama opposed this legislation, President Trump is much more amenable. “The president believes in right to work,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. “He wants to give workers and companies the flexibility to do what’s in the best interest for job creators.”

Amelia Hamilton is a contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @ameliahammy.