JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Labor groups have announced that they intend to present their signatures to put right-to-work up for a statewide vote in 2018 on August 18, and as the court battles wind down, the GOP has taken their attacks from the courtroom to public square.
Labor has decided to undertake a unique strategy in signature collecting in gathering signatures intended to meet the threshold in all 8 congressional districts instead of the 6 required.
While the right-to-work law is officially set to take effect August 28, the law supported by majorities of Republican legislators, alongside Democratic Rep. Courtney Curtis – prior to his record-setting fines, levied by the Missouri Ethics Commission, includes a grandfather clause so that existing union contracts will be valid until renegotiated 2-5 years later.
Several anti-RTW groups have led the effort to block the new law, including groups like “We Are Missouri” and “Preserve Middle Class America,” the latter of which is hosting a petition drive across the Show-Me State to gather more signatures.
This week, the Missouri GOP, fresh off a session where they attacked their own Republican state senators, attacked labor unions in a conference call with reporters, decrying a right-to-work “smear campaign” and alleging that the petitioners have been accepting invalid petition signatures and giving out misinformation.
Listen to the GOP call below:
They also accused canvassers of harassment and bullying, pointing to a video shared on Twitter as an example.
— Kristin Davison (@KristinDavison) August 3, 2017
The video reportedly shows a canvasser being confronted about another unnamed canvasser accepting invalid signatures, then the young man being confronted on the sidewalk knocks the phone out of the hand of the person recording. Kristin Davison of the political action committee (PAC) Liberty Alliance says that their members have been harassed and physically and verbally assaulted when confronting union canvassers.
Some union supporters question the video, asking why they never show the person’s face, or why there’s no response to why those people are illegally signing the petitions in the first place.
Laura Swinford with the pro-labor group We Are Missouri says those allegations are simply a trick to try and discredit the movement to put the issue before the voters, and that their focus is simply gathering the required number of signatures.
“This is typical, more of the same,” Swinford said. “We’ve got these out of state interests and wealthy business people who have invested in this, and they don’t want to see this on the ballot on Nov. 2018. It’s no coincidence that this pops up when we get closer to the deadline. Unfortunately for them, we’ve had great response and it looks like people want to see this on the ballot.
“We’re committed to making sure that voters have a right to decide whether right-to-work becomes a law in this state. We don’t believe the issue should end with politicians in Jefferson City, and we have found that tens of thousands of people across the state agree with us that voters should have the final say. This is part of what voters can do in Missouri to exercise the rights and should be able to do so.”
But the accusations do not stop there. The right-to-work supporters are also calling the petitioning groups out for being secretive union-front groups similar to the Governors dark money group A New Missouri and point to their finances as proof.
We Are Missouri is a political action committee, while Preserve Middle Class America Inc. is registered as a 501(c)4 group with a political action committee, called Preserve Middle Class America PAC.
While both sides have outstate groups that are in involved on both sides of the debate pro-RTW groups have attacked a company named FieldWorks, LLC, which is a Washington, D.C. firm that focuses on campaigns and ballot initiatives.
Missouri Rising spokesman Jeremy Adler, who is also based in Washington, D.C. says that this kind of effort from these groups shows that these are really “traditional left-wing operatives that are outsourcing their campaign activities to non-Missouri entities.”
Swinford acknowledged the work with a firm on the initiative petition, noting there’s nothing wrong or illegal about doing so. The use is also not uncommon for IP campaigns.
“We do work with a national firm that specializes in these large initiative campaigns, and that’s a common occurrence. We have a huge volunteer effort, and because of that, we needed to hire an experienced and professional firm to handle it all,” she said.
As for whether the signatures needed will be there by the Aug. 28 deadline, Swinford says they’re pretty certain of it.
“We have full confidence that we’re going to make it to the ballot.”