“Union Groups Accused of ‘Thuggery’ While Right to Work Attorneys Appeal to Missouri High Court”
Missourinet.com, Jason Taylor, August 4, 2017
An organization that’s trying to block union efforts to send Missouri’s new Right to Work law to a statewide vote are accusing union groups of lying and resorting to physical violence.
The political action committee (PAC) Liberty Alliance claims workers representing unions are giving out false information in order to gather signatures. The Alliance’s Kristin Davison says the workers are misinforming people about what their signatures mean.
“We’ve had several cases of voters who say they support right to work, being told that they need to sign the petition in order to vote on it, neglecting to tell that it’s already enacted into law and it goes into effect on the 28,” says Davison.
The unions need to collect enough signatures by late this month to get the right to work law before a public vote, which would also delay it from going into effect.
Liberty Alliance is a non-profit PAC with ties to Republican Governor Eric Greitens. Greitens’ campaign finance director, Meredith Gibbons, has helped raise money for it. Liberty’s website says the PAC is dedicated to defending Missouri’s Right to Work law, and that it opposes the proposed referendum (public vote).
Davison says Liberty’s members have observed a dozen instances when union canvassers knowingly collected signatures from people who aren’t registered to vote in Missouri. She also claims people were intimidated into signing the union petitions.
And further, Davison claims Liberty Alliance members have been harassed, verbally assaulted and subjected to physical abuse and “thuggery” when they confronted union canvassers.
“Recently in Columbia, one of our team members was physically assaulted, had his phone knocked out of his hand when he approached a petitioner for collecting invalid signatures,” she says.
Davison is joining two Republican state lawmakers, Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis and Representative Holly Rehder of Sikeston, along with state Republican Party Chairman Todd Graves to raise awareness about the reported incidents.
The GOP super-majority legislature passed the right to work law with lightning speed this year. Numerous party members have banded together with business interests and advocates to defend the law since the unions ramped up their campaign to place it on the ballot.
Laura Swinford with the pro-labor group We Are Missouri says the allegations from Davison and Liberty Alliance are a ploy to discredit honest efforts to let voters make a decision about the law.
“It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before” says Swinford. “It’s just typical tricks to try to try to silence folks voices to keep them from being able to exercise their right to see this on a statewide ballot for all voters to decide.”
We Are Missouri advocates for labor causes and is heavily involved in the union campaign to get right to work on the ballot.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit targeting the union efforts could be headed to the state Supreme Court. At issue is language in a ballot summary, which is attached to documents workers carry as they’re gathering required signatures.
Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft wrote the language and is named in the suit along with Missouri AFL-CIO head Mike Louis.
The litigation is being handled by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Liberty Alliance attorney Edward Greim.
They successfully argued before a circuit court in Cole County that the summary could be confusing to voters. That judge’s decision was appealed to a higher court by Secretary Ashcroft and Louis.
A three judge panel at the state’s Western District Court of Appeals in Kansas City reversed the lower bench ruling last Friday.
Greim has confirmed to Missourinet that he and the National Right to Work Foundation have applied with the appeals court to have the case transferred to the high court.
He says the ballot summary language is highly important because it not only is included on signature pages canvassers’ use, but also appear on the ballot when voters make a decision.
“When it goes on the ballot, you’ve got to have a majority of responders actually vote yes” says Greim. “And so, if the language is misleading, you’re in a good spot.”
Greim contends the ballot summary language is extremely vague and confusing.
“If you’ve read it, you’ll know that, you read through that thing and you know it has to do with right to work, but what exactly you’re voting for is not at all clear,” says Greim.
According to Greim, the Right to Work law would likely be rejected if the ballot summary goes before voters in its current form.
“Once you’re on the ballot with mistaken language or confusing language, people will just say ‘Forget it. If I can’t read it, if doesn’t make sense, if it’s not a real sentence, you’ve got to do better than that. I’m not going to vote for that.’ That’s all they need. And under the court of appeals decision, that’s what they’ve got,” says Greim.
Swinford with We Are Missouri says the unions’ have no ulterior motive to manipulate voters, but just want to let citizens decide the law’s fate.
“We’re not here for lawyers. We’re not here for a legal back and forth. We are here to make sure what we’re doing is giving voters the opportunity to exercise their right to vote on this issue on the ballot November 2018,” says Swinford.
In 1978, about 60% percent of Missourians rejected a right to work proposal.
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