AFL-CIO Predicts Victory on Right-to-Work in Missouri (1)

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By Andrew Wallender

Voters in Missouri will repeal right-to-work legislation when they vote in the state’s primary next week, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka predicted Aug. 1.

“We’re going to win on August 7th because the people of Missouri and the rest of the country don’t want to go in that direction,” Trumka said at a media event in Washington.

The defeat of right-to-work legislation would represent a significant win for the labor movement that could indicate a slowing of momentum. Right-to-work laws have been enacted in five states since 2012.

Missouri passed legislation in 2017 that bans unions from forcing workers to become a member or pay dues as a condition of employment. That legislation was supposed to take effect in August 2017 but was halted when Missourians submitted more than 300,000 signatures demanding the legislation be put to a public vote.

Twenty-seven other states are currently in the right-to-work category.

Polls Support Law, Republican Says

“It’s too early to say exactly what will happen,” state Sen. David Schatz (R) told Bloomberg Law. Polling indicates that a majority of Missourians are in favor of right-to-work, so if the ballot issue on repeal is successful, Missouri will become a right-to-work state at some other point in the near future, he said.

A legislative battle over whether the question would appear on the primary or general election ballot ended with a win for Republicans, who said they wanted the matter settled quickly. Democrats advocated for the question to appear on the November ballot.

This year’s midterm elections represent “the biggest, deepest member-to-member program” that the AFL-CIO has ever undertaken, Trumka said. That includes more than 500,000 phone calls and door knocks made in Missouri by AFL-CIO members in advance of the primary election, he added.

Right-to-work opponents are outspending proponents of the legislation by a factor of 15-1, Schatz said. That engagement of outside influences is “unfortunate” because it’s leading the issue to be decided by “fear and deception,” he said.

Eyes Set on November

Trumka said pro-worker platforms will enable the Democrats to retake control of the U.S. House in November. Candidates’ labor positions will matter more to AFL-CIO members than any endorsements from President Donald Trump , Trumka said.

Approximately 58 percent of union members voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, down 10 percentage points from President Barack Obama ’s 2012 re-election, Trumka said. Another 36 percent voted for Trump, with the remaining union members casting third-party votes or not voting at all, he said.

Some members thought they saw their candidate in Trump with his promises of better work conditions and more jobs, Trumka said. “Today, nearly all of those promises are either broken or unfulfilled,” he said.

Despite what Trumka characterized as the administration’s shortcomings on labor, he said collective organizing is seeing a resurgence. About 60 percent of Americans approve of unions, and more than 262,000 people joined the labor movement in 2017, with three-fourths of new members under the age of 35, Trumka said.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said.

The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trumka made the comments at an annual breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

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