“Right-to-Work Groups Accuse Unions of Heavy-Handed Tactics and Secrecy”
Benjamin Peters, The Missouri Times, August 4, 2017
As the day grows nearer before Missouri’s new right-to-work law takes effect, tension continues to rise as opponents of the conservative movement continue pushing forward with their plan to gather signatures in an effort to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the law.
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.
But while the anti-RTW groups finalize their efforts to get needed signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, they’re also being accused of heavy-handed and unethical tactics being used to gather signatures.
This week, the Missouri GOP called out the 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.
They also accused canvassers of harassment and bullying, pointing to a video shared on Twitter as an example.
The video reportedly shows a canvasser being confronted about accepting invalid signatures, who then 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 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.
Missouri Rising is a state branch of has been a strong proponent and advocate for right-to-work in the Show-Me State, and they say that the two groups have funneled over $600,000 into an out-of-state group to collect signatures to block the law from going into effect, as records with the Missouri Ethics Commission show.
That company, FieldWorks, LLC, is a Washington, D.C. firm that focuses on campaigns and ballot initiatives.
Missouri Rising says We Are Missouri is really just a front for the Missouri AFL-CIO and Preserve Middle Class America is a front for the Teamsters, and that both groups claim to be a coalition of grassroots activists leading the fight against right-to-work laws in Missouri. They say it seems ironic that We Are Missouri would put the bulk of its funds into a D.C. group, and questions whether they’re really a “grassroots” group of Missouri-based activists, as they have apparently only spent 7.7 percent of their expenditures in Missouri.
We Are Missouri’s Total Expenditures: $525,333
We Are Missouri’s In-State Expenditures: $40,536
We Are Missouri’s Out-Of-State Expenditures: $484,797
Missouri Rising spokesman Jeremy Adler 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.”
Reports have shared the campaign plans to turn is 150% of needed signatures for all 8 congressional districts. If successful, it will be one of the only campaigns to succeed. Generally, campaigns prioritize signature gathering in 6 of the 8, which is the minimum required.