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Missouri Democrats declare victory as vote tallies show 'right to work' losing by wide margins

By Jack Suntrup
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

August 08. 2018 12:08AM

ST. LOUIS — Right-to-work opponents were leading by wide margins as vote tallies on Missouri’s Proposition A continued to roll in on Tuesday night.

As of 9:54 p.m., with almost 1,600 precincts reporting out of more than 3,200 precincts statewide, right-to-work opponents had won 63 percent of all votes cast. The law’s proponents had won 37 percent of the vote.

The “no” side — in favor of killing the new law — had 396,725 votes compared to the “yes” side’s 233,280 votes, returns showed. Voters in both rural and urban areas were coming out against the law.

At issue is a ballot initiative that will determine whether a law signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, stays on the books.

Democrats, who largely opposed the law, declared victory at 9:53 p.m. in a statement from state party chairman Stephen Webber.

“Tonight, Missouri voters rejected a top Republican priority and sent a resounding message that we will not leave working people behind,” he said. “Standing together, Democrats and working families successfully fought off this shameless attack on the middle class from corrupt Republican politicians in Jeff City.”

Under the 2017 law, which was blocked from going into effect when labor unions collected enough signatures to put it to a vote, workers could not be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or to pay dues to a labor union.

Right to work appeared as Proposition A on the primary ballot. A “no” vote was to prevent the law from going into effect. A “yes” vote was in support of the law.

In St. Louis City, with 43 of 222 precincts reporting results as of 9:29 p.m., Proposition A was being defeated by a massive margin, with 88 percent of voters opting to dump the law.

In Franklin County, directly southwest of St. Louis County, three-fourths of voters had come out against the law as of 9:13 p.m. with 22 of 52 precincts reporting vote totals.

Currently, 27 states and Guam have laws mandating that employees be given a choice when it comes to union membership. Labor unions are still allowed to operate in those states, but workers cannot be compelled to become members as a requirement of their jobs.

Supporters of right to work say it makes states more attractive to business, creates jobs and gives employees more choices.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce points to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showing that jobs in right-to-work states grew by 8.6 percent in the last decade, compared with 5 percent growth in states without right-to-work laws.

The National Right To Work Committee, which advocates for states to become right to work, said that in the 23 states that had right-to-work laws on the books as of early 2012, the total number of payroll manufacturing jobs grew by 272,000, or 5.5 percent, over the next five years. Over the same period, payroll manufacturing jobs grew by 1.7 percent in the 22 non-right-to-work states, according to the committee.

Opponents say there are myriad factors other than right to work that play into job growth, including the readiness of a skilled workforce, transportation opportunities and tax incentives from local governments.

In a 2011 briefing paper for the Economic Policy Institute, authors Gordon Lafer and Sylvia Allegretto note that right-to-work states are concentrated in the South, where significant changes dating to the 1950s have altered the economy — including the advent of air conditioning, better roads, desegregation and “massive federal investments in these states’ education systems.”

“Any one of these factors is more likely than right to work to account for the more rapid growth of manufacturing in Southern states,” the paper says.

The study also suggests there have been few benefits for states adopting right-to-work laws. It tracked unemployment rates in Oklahoma five years before it adopted right to work in 2001 and five years after.

“No matter how we analyzed the data, the result was always the same: The adoption of right to work in Oklahoma had no significant positive impact whatsoever on employment,” the briefing says.

Right to work also could hurt Democrats, who are backed by unions more frequently than are Republicans, who control the levers of power in Missouri.

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