National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an appeal for a group of Missouri workers asking the state Supreme Court to review a lower court decision permitting misleading ballot language on a series of union boss-backed constitutional amendments designed to overturn the state’s recently enacted Right to Work law.
On June 27, 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling on potential 2018 ballot amendments, determining that most of the amendments addressing the Right to Work law enacted in February adequately described the ballot propositions, even though none mentioned the recently-passed Right to Work law.
In December, Mike Louis, the Missouri AFL-CIO’s top official, submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State ten proposed amendments to the state constitution. Each seeks to overturn Missouri’s Right to Work law enacted in February. These amendments contain language that is confusing and misleading.
The language was approved by outgoing Secretary of State Jason Kander, who ran a failed U.S. Senate campaign that was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in union contributions. He approved the ballot language just hours before vacating office, ignoring the fact that none of the petitions even mentioned the Right to Work law that they are designed to nullify. One or more of the amendments could appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures.
Foundation staff attorneys argued that Kander’s summary statements contained misleading and insufficient language. In March, Judge Jon Beetem of the Cole County Circuit Court agreed, ruling that the proposed language was “unclear and insufficient” to accurately reflect that the amendments — if passed — would nullify the Right to Work law. Judge Beetem re-wrote the summary statements to provide a balanced and accurate description of the effect of the proposed amendments.
However, Judge Beetem’s decision was overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled that Kander’s summary statements for eight of the ten amendments contained sufficient language, while two needed minor revisions. The court also noted that it was an unusual case as it was the first occurrence of the legislature enacting a law that was simultaneously being addressed by the Secretary of State.
If any of the Big Labor-backed constitutional amendments are put on the ballot and approved by the voters, they would repeal the new Right to Work law and block future passage of any state legislation to protect workers from mandatory union fees. Any future attempt to pass Right to Work would first require another amendment of the state constitution.<br /
“Big Labor continues to resort to any tactic in an attempt to block Missouri’s new Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Big Labor knows that the citizens of Missouri believe it is wrong for an employee to be fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees to a union boss. That’s why the union bosses are so intent on confusing voters about their goal of restoring their forced dues powers.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also assisting Missouri employees in challenging misleading language in a repeal referendum being pushed by Missouri union bosses. In that case, not only was the Secretary of State’s language misleading, but it also included grammatical errors, something the judge noted when he rewrote it in that case.