Missouri Voters Strike Down Right-to-Work Law

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Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected the state's right-to-work legislation, which would have prevented employers and unions from requiring workers in collective bargaining units to pay mandatory fees.

Labor unions are required to represent all workers in a bargaining unit regardless of whether they pay fees. Unions argue that charging mandatory fees to all workers in the unit prevents "free-riding" by nonmembers who would otherwise receive union benefits without contributing to the cost.

Supporters of right-to-work laws, however, say that unions should have to show the benefits of membership and that employees should have the freedom to decide whether it makes sense for them personally to join.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believes in the fundamental right—guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act—of every employee to make a private choice about whether to join a union, according to SHRM's 2018 Guide to Public Policy Issues.

We've rounded up the latest news on right-to-work laws. Here are SHRM Online resources and news articles from other trusted media outlets.

[SHRM members-only HR Q&A: What is a "right-to-work" state?]

Successful Petition

Missouri Republicans passed legislation to ban compulsory union fees in 2017 and former Gov. Eric Greitens signed the bill into law. Thereafter, union organizers successfully petitioned to halt the law's implementation pending a statewide referendum. Voters quashed the new law on Aug. 7 during the state's primary election, with 67 percent voting against and 33 percent voted in favor of the right-to-work law.

(Business Insider)

Union Leader Applauds Results

The result in Missouri is a huge victory for labor unions as nationwide membership levels continue to decline and right-to-work laws gain momentum in other states. "The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat [the right-to-work law] is clear: When we see an opportunity to use our political voice to give workers a more level playing field, we will seize it with overwhelming passion and determination," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

(CNN)

Business Groups May Try Again

Business groups that support right-to-work legislation have vowed to try again in Missouri—possibly during the 2019 legislative session. "The defeat of [Missouri's right-to-work law] is merely a minor setback on the road to providing workers with the freedom they deserve," said Jeremy Cady, the Missouri director of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group.

(Chicago Tribune)

Resurgence of Right-to-Work Laws

Federal labor law allows employers and unions to enter agreements that require employees to either become union members or pay certain fees—but states can ban such arrangements through right-to-work laws. Seventeen states invoked this right in the 1940s and 1950s, and a few more followed suit over the next 50 years. Then, starting in 2012, interest was renewed when Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin passed right-to-work measures. West Virginia and Kentucky also became right-to-work states in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Missouri was the 28th state to pass a right-to-work law last year, but the Aug. 7 vote invalidated the law.

(SHRM Online)

Future of Unions Is Uncertain

In a landmark decision on June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory union fees for public-sector employees are unconstitutional. Prior to the decision, public-sector employees in a collective bargaining unit could be required to pay fair-share fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustments. Though the high court's ban doesn't directly affect private-sector bargaining units, unions might receive less funds in light of the decision and therefore have less influence. The high court's decision adds to the impact of state right-to-work laws that do apply to the private sector.

(SHRM Online

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