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Pro & Con: Prop A, the referendum on Aug. 7 ballot that would make Missouri a right-to-work state

Joining Friday’s show via phone, state Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis), at left, spoke in favor of Proposition A. Jack Cardetti, who was in studio for the conversation, spoke in opposition.
Courtesy of Bob Onder & St. Louis Public Radio

“Do the people of the state of Missouri want to adopt Senate Bill 19 ("Right-to-Work") … ?”

So begins Proposition A, which if passed would make Missouri the 28th right-to-work state in the country, prohibiting labor organizations from mandating union membership or union fees as a condition of employment.

Voters will decide the hotly contested matter during the Aug. 7 primary election. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh examined both sides of the ballot issue.

Joining him to talk about it were state Sen. Bob Onder, speaking in favor of Proposition A, and Jack Cardetti, speaking in opposition.

Each guest provided opening remarks before Marsh moderated an in-depth debate between the two. Each argument is summarized below.

Pro: State Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake Saint Louis) wants Missourians to vote ‘yes’ on Prop A

Onder made the case for passing the referendum, describing Prop A as a pro-worker, pro-freedom, pro-jobs measure.”

“Remember last month the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus case upheld the freedom of speech and association for public-sector workers throughout the country,” Onder said. “The court ruled that unions cannot force public-sector union workers to pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment. On Aug. 7, Missouri voters will have a chance to extend the same freedom to all workers in our state by passing Prop A. If unions want more members, they should work to earn those members’ support.”

Onder’s major points in favor of Prop A were as follows:

  1. “In the last 15 years, right-to-work states have grown at 39 percent in personal income and non-right-to-work states by 25 percent. … If you adjust for cost of living, right-to-work state workers make $2,250 more than their counterparts in forced-union states.”
  2. “Missouri is competing with surrounding states. Every surrounding state, other than Illinois, is a freedom-to-work state. If we want the kind of opportunity, the kind of job growth, the kind of wage growth that other freedom-to-work states are enjoying, Missouri voters should adopt Prop A.”
  3. “Job growth in freedom-to-work states has been 8.5 percent over the last decade and only 5 percent in non-right-to-work states.”
  4. “It’s also an issue of freedom. No one should be forced to pay tribute to union bosses and really pay for political support of liberal Democrats that they don’t approve of their policies as a condition of employment.”
  5. “We can’t let a small cadre of union bosses hold our state behind when we are competing against the 27 states who have already become freedom-to-work states. So I can promise you that we will continue to work for freedom to work and that Missouri will become a right-to-work state.”
  6. “As far as listening to my constituents … 70 percent of my general-election voters support [becoming a right-to-work state].”
  7. “No one should be forced to join or support a union in order to keep or get a job. Freedom-to-work is pro-worker, it’s pro-freedom, it’s pro-jobs. And I encourage all your listeners to vote ‘yes’ on Proposition A on Aug. 7.”

Con: Jack Cardetti wants Missourians to vote ‘no’ on Prop A

Cardetti made the case for defeating Prop A, calling the ballot measure a question of whether Missourians “want lower wages.”

“That is precisely what we’ll get if Prop A is enacted,” Cardetti said. “We’ve looked at all of the other states, and really, that’s the bottom line, is that Proposition A will lower wages both for union workers and for non-union workers. And that’s really what we’re talking about here: What type of economy do we want to have here in Missouri?”

Cardetti’s major points in opposition to Prop A were as follows:

  1. “Nine of the 10 states with the highest poverty in this country are right-to-work states. What Sen. Onder’s talking about is [that] of course CEOs make more in right-to-work states including their bonuses and their stock dividends. But the entire point here is that comes at the expense of middle-class families.”
  2. “The median household income is $8,700 lower in right-to-work states, and that’s why you’ve seen so much enthusiasm across the state [against Prop A].”
  3. “In right-to-work states, CEOs make 361 times more than the average worker. That’s not a healthy economy. That’s not going to build the middle class.”
  4. “The Supreme Court’s ruled that no one can be forced to join a union as a condition of their employment. What we’re really talking about here is how are we going to have an economy … where we want to try and pay workers and employees as little as possible?”
  5. “They said they wanted the people to be able to vote on this issue at the first possible opportunity, and now what Sen. Onder is conceding is that even if this goes down in flames maybe he’ll go back and support that.”
  6. “This is a conscious decision by Prop A supporters to try to drive down wages. Luckily, Missourians aren’t falling for that.”
  7. “A lot of times issues go on the ballot [that] are only tangentially impactful on peoples’ lives. This one really is [impactful]. When you talk about pocketbook issues, there is no more fundamental pocketbook issue than wages. And so I think that’s one of the reasons you’re going to see an outpouring of opposition come election day to this, because Missourians are going to rise up, and we’re going to protect our pay.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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