"Right To Work" Rejected by Missouri Voters By Nicky Riordan
Missouri voters sent a clear message to the state Legislature this week when they rejected the recent passage of a Right to Work (RTW) law by a 2-to-1 margin. Proposition A, a statewide referendum of the law, was the direct result of labor advocates organizing on behalf of strong unions following the passage of the law last year.
As I have written previously, it can be argued that the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election was due in part to the decline of labor union membership and political influence in Rust Belt states, which cleared a path for Republicans to take back a solid-blue part of the country.
States like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan went for Donald Trump by relatively small margins following strategic efforts by Republican Governors and Legislatures to pass RTW laws going into 2016.
Twenty-seven states currently have RTW laws in place - laws that have been found to decrease union density and dilute Democratic support. According to federal data, only about 12 percent of workers belong to a union today, down from 20 percent in the early 1980’s. Moreover, recent experience in Wisconsin saw a decline of 38.5 percent in union membership after passage of a similar law in 2011.
The results of this vote are a huge win for labor advocates, and potentially signal that the motivation and turnout needed for a blue wave is feasible in November. It is no mistake that Republican state representatives have passed additional RTW laws going into the 2020 election based on prior results, and Democratic party leaders will need to rebuild union influence or look to new coalitions of states if they hope to win future presidential contests with RTW laws in place.
Nicky Riordan (@nriordan120), Political Analyst, The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research