Missouri Business Headlines

The road to right-to-work

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As we began 2017, it seemed inevitable that right-to-work protections would finally come to Missouri. And now, they have.

However, this certainty regarding passing right-to-work makes it easy to forget the decades of effort that went into bringing this law to Missouri.

Nationally, right-to-work started gaining traction in the 1940s. Until recently, the strongest push to bring right-to-work to Missouri happened in 1978 when a constitutional amendment was placed on the ballot. Voters rejected the idea, a major setback for right-to-work in Missouri.

In the wake of that vote, other states succeeded in passing right-to-work protections for their workers. More recently, there has been a renewed focus nationally on right-to-work, with several mid-western states passing versions of the law. Eventually, Missouri found itself in the minority of states that still had not passed right-to-work.

While this was happening, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry continued to advocate for the positive message behind right-to-work. The bill would help Missouri compete in an increasingly global economy. It would increase our state’s gross domestic product. It would bring more and better job opportunities to our state.

Despite these arguments, for years right-to-work bills received little more than a token hearing in the Missouri General Assembly.

To increase interest in right-to-work, the Missouri Chamber strove to make the legislation an important issue during elections. Candidates’ support or opposition to right-to-work played a big role in the endorsement decisions made by the Missouri Chamber Political Action Committee. Legislators’ votes on right-to-work measures were also counted when the Missouri Chamber tallied vote rankings at the end of each session.

Gradually, the right-to-work coalition gained numbers in Jefferson City. Legislative efforts to pass right-to-work began gaining momentum and bills started moving closer to passage.

During this time, the Missouri Chamber commissioned Gallup to conduct a survey of more than 1,000 of the state’s top business leaders to identify the most factors that could help grow jobs in Missouri. Right-to-work emerged as one of the key issues.

The Gallup survey also included candid discussions with national site selectors. These revealed that Missouri was losing out on at least 40 percent of the state’s potential business expansion projects due to the lack of right-to-work protections.

These statistics helped spur the Missouri General Assembly to pass right to work in 2015. However, the bill was vetoed by the governor. A veto override attempt failed by a small margin.

Despite this setback, the Missouri Chamber continued to advocate for the legislation.

The 2016 gubernatorial election became a major turning point. Republican candidate Eric Greitens campaigned on passing right-to-work. This played a big role in the Missouri Chamber PAC’s decision to endorse Greitens, helping frame the gubernatorial election as a new statewide referendum on right-to-work in Missouri.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens gives a thumbs up as he prepares to deliver his first State of the State speech to the Missouri Legislature in the State Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri on January 17, 2017. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

When Greitens was elected governor, it became clear that right-to-work finally had the momentum it needed to become law.

This January, Gov. Greitens placed right-to-work among his top agenda items during his first State of the State Address.

“The people have sent us a message: We must do everything in our power to put people back to work in good, high-paying jobs,” Greitens said during his address. “That’s why we must join 27 other states and sign right-to-work.”

The General Assembly quickly responded to this call. The Missouri House passed a right-to-work bill just one day after the State of the State. Just three weeks later, Gov. Greitens signed the bill into law.


Watch highlights from years of the Missouri Chamber’s advocacy for right-to-work.

A Senate committee hearing from 2011:

A Senate committee hearing from 2012:

A House committee hearing in 2013:

An interview with the bill sponsor in 2014:

Newscast coverage of a 2015  right-to-work House vote:

Newscast coverage of the 2015 failed right-to-work veto override:

Interview with a 2017 right-to-work bill sponsor:

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