Missouri workers have something to be hopeful about after the Nov. 8 election. When he takes office, Governor-elect Eric Greitens will quickly take up an issue he advocated throughout his campaign: giving workers the freedom to decide whether they should support a union.
Many Missouri workers have been denied that freedom for decades, and new leadership in Jefferson City can make sure the “right to work” becomes enshrined in our state law.
Currently, all Missourians are required by law to pay union dues if they take a job at a unionized business. Regardless of whether workers agree with the union’s political activity or other stances, they’re forced to hand over part of their wages to the union as a condition of employment.
A right-to-work law would prevent workers from being coerced into joining or paying dues to a union in order to keep their jobs.
That’s reason enough for Missouri to join the 26 other states that have this sound policy on their books. But right-to-work laws also provide a much-needed boost to workers, their families and the economy.
The 22 states that passed right to work laws before 2012 have experienced an economic boom, to put it mildly. According to federal data, right-to-work states had more than 17 percent average growth between 2004 and 2014. Meanwhile, the states without right-to-work in place over the same period only had 11.5 percent growth — a significant difference.
From 2006-2016, Missouri struggled to grow jobs, increasing total payrolls by only 1 percent. At the same time, all six of our neighboring states had right-to-work laws in effect, and they experienced a 5.7 percent increase in private-sector employment, on average.
Overall, total number of jobs in right-to-work states grew 8.6 percent between 2006 and 2016, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This outperforms the national average of 5.8 percent over that period, not to mention the non-right-to-work state average of 4.4 percent.
While the numbers speak for themselves, right-to-work is about much more than statistics. It’s about the freedom to decide for themselves what organizations to join and how to spend their hard-earned money. Union membership may be a great deal for some, but others may not see value in that association. When people are free to make choices according to their own needs and desires, economic growth and opportunity are the inevitable results.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder over 70 percent of Americans polled by Gallup said they would vote in favor of right-to-work laws if given a chance. Nonetheless, some of our elected officials haven’t been listening.
In recent years, the Legislature has repeatedly passed right-to-work laws. Yet when the legislature sent a right-to-work law to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk last year, he shut it down with a veto, benching Missouri on the sidelines while our neighbors enjoy the benefits of worker freedom. This despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of the state supports a right-to-work law.
Eric Greitens’ election victory gives Missouri workers a chance to secure those same freedoms. The governor’s desk will no longer be a roadblock on the way to passing right-to-work.
Now it’s up to us to stand up and urge the Legislature to once again to pass a right-to-work bill. If Governor-elect Greitens keeps his promise and signs it into law, Missourians will finally enjoy freedoms that workers in other states take for granted.