MO Union to Force Right to Work Initiative on Ballot

AFL-CIO group paid D.C. consultants $431,114 for grassroots petition effort

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO / Getty Images
• August 12, 2017 5:00 am


Union activists, with the help of a Washington, D.C., firm, reportedly have enough signatures to block Missouri from implementing its right-to-work law and force a ballot measure on the question in 2018.

Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis said that the We Are Missouri movement, which shares headquarters with the union, has gathered almost 300,000 signatures supporting the ballot measure—three times more than the 100,000 needed to force an election.

The union plans to deliver the signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State's office after assembling at the state capitol on Aug. 18, Louis said at a rally on Aug. 8. If the initiative is successful, the petition will block the state from enacting Right to Work, which prevents employers from mandating union membership as a condition of employment, until the 2018 election.

"It really is humbling to know what you've accomplished will go down in the history books,’’ Louis told supporters [18 minute mark] before donning a "Right to Work is a Ripoff" hat. "We're going to end this attack."

The union launched the groundbreaking petition drive with the help of FieldWorks LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that contracts with dozens of major Democratic groups, including the DNC, pro-abortion EMILY's List, Everytown For Gun Safety, Sierra Club, and a number of labor unions, including the SEIU, the AFL-CIO, and UNITE HERE. The group received $431,114 from AFL-CIO's We Are Missouri and $234,736 from the Teamsters-linked Preserve Middle Class America.

FieldWorks LLC has been advertising for full- and part-time canvassers in Missouri since April, according to a job posting on its website. Petition gatherers can earn "up to $450-$740 per week," according to the job posting, with the goal of using "innovative grassroots strategies, the newest technologies, and time-tested shoe leather tactics [to mobilize] people to achieve progressive and democratic victory."

"FieldWorks is hiring signature gatherers in Independence/Kansas City, MO. This is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved in the field process by directly engaging voters and encouraging them to take action," the posting says. "Our staff has knocked on millions of doors, collected petitions from hundreds of thousands of citizens, and coordinated hundreds of events and organizing strategies that have helped campaigns WIN!"

Neither FieldWorks LLC, nor Preserve Middle Class America responded to requests for comment. The AFL-CIO also did not return request for comment.

We Are Missouri also spent more than $27,000 working with the Ohio-based JVA Campaigns, which has done extensive work with the AFL-CIO in state and national campaigns. JVA helped to create We Are Missouri's website and was also given $15,000 for an expenditure described as "Campaign Management." A JVA consultant did not return request for comment.

Right to Work supporters have criticized the unions for turning to Washington, D.C. to organize and questioned whether the ballot measure is reflects grassroots support. We Are Missouri has spent about $40,000 of the nearly $800,000 it has raised in-state, according Missouri Rising, a labor watchdog firm.

"This phony petition drive is funded by Big Labor and is forced to rely on out-of-state interests because Missourians have made it clear that they want laws that don't restrict the freedoms of the private sector," Rising spokesman Jeremy Adler said. "Missouri has already made great strides since Right-To-Work was signed and delaying its implementation only hurts workers that are trying to find a job and businesses that want to hire and grow."

The National Right to Work Foundation has launched a legal challenge over the ballot initiative, which led a district court judge to declare the union's initial language "misleading" in June. Foundation spokesman Patrick Semmens said that the union is working to use a ballot measure that is "not only confusing but also grammatically flawed" in order to mischaracterize the effects of Right to Work.

"Missouri union bosses have just started spending what will likely end up being millions of forced union dues dollars in their hope of restoring their power to have a worker fired for not handing over part of their paycheck to union officials," Semmens said. "They know the worker freedom of choice protected by Right to Work is popular, so they will big to confuse voters about what the law really does."

If the union efforts are unsuccessful, the law will go into effect on Aug. 28.

Published under: AFL-CIO, Big Labor, Missouri, Right to Work