Americans want strong unions. That’s the message from polling that shows more than 60 percent of voters nationwide approve of organized labor. And that’s certainly the message from Missouri, where voters on Tuesday overturned the state’s so-called “right-to-work” law by an overwhelming margin.
The Missouri result offers a reminder of what happens when the people—as opposed to corporate-friendly Republican governors and legislators—are given a chance to decide whether they want a muscular labor movement to fight for better wages and benefits, and for fairness in the workplace and society.
In a state where Republicans have won the last five presidential elections and where the GOP now controls the executive and legislative branches of state government, 65 percent of the Missourians who cast ballots on Tuesday voted to scrap the “right-to-work” measure that was enacted just months after a corporate-aligned Republican grabbed the governorship from the Democrats in 2016.
“The defeat of this poisonous anti-worker legislation is a victory for all workers across the country,” declared AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka as the results came in Tuesday night. “The message sent by every single person who worked to defeat Prop. A 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. Tonight is the latest act of working people changing a rigged system that for decades has been favoring corporations, the mega wealthy and the privileged few.”
Trumka’s point is a vital one. Tuesday’s voting saw a number of labor allies—such as Kansas Democratic congressional candidate James Thompson—win key primaries. It also saw labor-backed Democrat Danny O’Connor finish within a whisker of his Republican rival in a special election to fill a historically Republican Ohio congressional seat.
But the Missouri win was the sweetest result for a union movement that has been under assault in recent years.
This landslide victory for labor rights upsets the political calculus, and the spin, of the billionaire class that has for decades promoted a nationwide drive to use the power of government to weaken unions.