AFP Foundation Touts Right to Work Benefits in MO Amid Union-Funded Ballot Drive

Campaign comes after Missouri unions raised $800,000 to put law on 2018 ballot

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens / Getty Images
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens / Getty Images
August 2, 2017

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) announced on Wednesday that it will begin a six-figure effort, including on-the-ground canvassing, phone-banking, and print and digital advertisements, in Missouri to rally support for the right-to-work law Republican Gov. Eric Greitens signed in February.

AFP-Foundation Missouri State Director Jeremy Cady said that the group will reach hundreds of thousands of residents and will focus on informing workers of their rights in a right-to-work environment, which forbids companies from mandating union membership as a condition of employment.

"Right-to-work is a great victory for all Missourians, but particularly for the workers who are no longer forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment," he said in a statement.

The digital advertisement touts the law as an example of "worker freedom" and choice in the workplace. The 30-second spot went live in June and has amassed more than 22,000 views, which the foundation hopes to increase by investing more heavily in its online advertising budget.

"For the first time working Missourians have the freedom to choose whether to join and pay a union instead of just being forced to pay dues," the ad's female narrator says. "We're putting workers back in charge of their paychecks."

Greitens's predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, vetoed right-to-work bills that had passed the Republican-controlled legislature in 2015. Greitens signed the legislation to make Missouri the 28th right-to-work state despite major opposition from Missouri unions, which had 262,000 dues-paying members in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure represented a 22,000 decrease from 2006, but a 14 percent increase from 2015.

While federal and state courts have upheld right-to-work laws for decades, Missouri unions hope to repeal the law via voters.

The Missouri AFL-CIO filed paperwork to launch a 2018 ballot initiative to overturn right to work on the day that Greitens signed the bill into law. Right-to-work opponents have raised nearly $800,000 for We Are Missouri, which shares an office with the AFL-CIO, according to state campaign finance records. The campaign is now working to secure the 90,000 signatures needed to put it on the ballot after suffering a setback in June when a circuit court judge ruled that its initial ballot language was "misleading."

The We Are Missouri website says that the initiative is meant to "give voters—not out-of-touch politicians—the right to determine the economic future of working Missourians." The Missouri AFL-CIO did not return request for comment.

Cady said that the AFP Foundation's campaign is not meant to influence whether or not workers drop out of unions, but instead to present facts about the practical implications of the law. The foundation launched a pilot program in the heavily Democratic city of St. Louis and said that it saw enough positive results to launch a statewide campaign.

"We want to make sure Missourians know the facts about how right-to-work protects the freedom of all workers to decide if they want to join a union or pay union dues," he said in the statement. "Whether a worker chooses to join a local union or not, we are glad that Missouri workers make that decision."

The deadline for filing a petition for the ballot initiative is August 28, the day the right-to-work law is set to go into effect.