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Missouri appeals court hands labor another victory in the battle over 'right to work'

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Court of Appeals has given labor its second boost in a month in unions’ two-pronged effort to  overturn the state's "right to work" law.

On Friday, the court overturned a judge's earlier decision changing the wording on labor's proposed referendum to block "right to work," which is slated to go into effect Aug. 28.

Under "right to work,'' which critics dub "right to work for less,'' unions and employers would be barred from requiring all workers in a bargaining unit to pay dues or fees.  Nearly 30 states have adopted such a law in recent years.

Neither ruling affects the referendum petition signatures that unions are collecting. They need to turn in close to 100,000 signatures from registered voters by Aug. 28 to delay implementation of the law.  The referendum would be held in November 2018.  

The referendum is separate from a ballot initiative that the state AFL-CIO also is circulating, in case the referendum effort falls short. The initiative signatures don't need to be turned in until May.

On June 27, the appeals court restored the original wording on the ballot initiative. The ballot initiative also would go on the November 2018 ballot, but only if the referendum fails to make it.

The state AFL-CIO supports Friday’s court ruling, as does the Missouri Secretary of State's office.  A lawyer for those seeking the wording change said they have yet to decide whether to appeal.

The revised referendum wording, which would appear on the November 2018 ballot,  mirrors the original referendum wording:

Do the people of the state of Missouri want to adopt Senate Bill 19 (“Right-to-Work”) as passed by the general assembly in 2017, which prohibits as a condition of employment the forced membership in a labor organization (union) or forced payments of dues in full or pro-rata(fair-share); make any activity which violates employees’ rights illegal and ineffective; allow legal remedies for anyone injured as a result of another person violating or threatening to violate employees’ rights; and which shall not apply to union agreements entered into before the effective date of Senate Bill 19?

Jason Rosenbaum contributed information for this article.

Follow Jo on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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