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Letter to the Editor: The freedom to work

To the Editor:

In January 2017, the Missouri General Assembly passed and the governor signed Right to Work, which I prefer to call Freedom to Work, a measure giving workers the freedom to work without being forced to join or pay fees to a union. Unfortunately, unions spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying for signatures to force a referendum, putting Freedom to Work on hold.  

On Aug. 7, Missouri voters will decide whether to allow this important measure, Proposition A, to go into effect.  

Missouri voters unfortunately rejected Freedom to Work in 1978. What has happened since then?  In the last two decades, Missouri has lagged the nation in economic growth, placing 47 out of 50 states, while income growth in Missouri is 43rd. Missouri’s population growth has been sluggish.  Also alarming has been our decline in manufacturing. Since 1978, the St. Louis area has lost two of its three major auto manufacturers.

Where have the jobs and economic growth gone? Overwhelmingly, they have gone to Freedom to Work states. Since the economic downturn in 2008, four out of every five jobs created in our country have been in Freedom to Work states. Over the decade ending in 2013, job growth has been 8.6 percent in Freedom to Work states and 3.7 percent in forced unionization states.

Other Midwestern states have recognized the potential of Freedom to Work to bring jobs to their state. Since 2012, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky have all passed Freedom to Work.  

Freedom to Work is not anti-union, it is pro-worker. Workers have a right to join a union. But a worker should also have a right not to join a union if he does not believe that union is representing his best interests or using his dues wisely. Workers who make this decision are not “freeloaders.” They are merely exercising their right to work and support their families as they see fit.

It is important to remember that unions do not disappear in states that adopt Freedom to Work.  Since adopting Freedom to Work, Indiana actually has seen an increase in union membership from 9.1 to 10.7 percent. Oklahoma, which passed Freedom to Work in 2001, has similarly gained union jobs while Missouri has lost union jobs.

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” Missouri has a choice to make: vote “yes” to give Missourians the high-quality jobs and income growth that they deserve, or once more accept a status quo that has given us stagnation and decline.

I urge Missouri voters to vote “yes” on Proposition A on Aug. 7.

Sen. Bob Onder

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