ST. LOUIS (CN) – With the eyes of the nation watching, Missourians flocked to the polls in Tuesday’s primary election to decide whether Missouri will become a right-to-work state and to set the stage for a much-anticipated U.S. Senate race in November.
With right-to-work, workers cannot be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or pay dues to a labor union. Twenty-eight states have passed such laws.
Political analysts believed that if a public vote, the first in the country on the hot button issue, passed the measure, it could lead to a national referendum on the issue.
But voters struck down the measure, also known as Proposition A, with “no” votes garnering 67 percent with 97 percent of the votes tallied as of midnight CST.
In February 2017, Missouri’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed right-to-work and it was signed into law by then-Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican. The law was to take effect on Aug. 28, 2017.
But Missouri labor unions successfully blocked the law by collecting 310,567 signatures, more than triple the amount required, to put the issue on the ballot for Missouri voters.
Supporters of right-to-work claimed it would create jobs and give workers the freedom to decide whether to join a union instead of being forced into one. They said the law ensures workers will not be forced to hand over their money to unions, which may use it to support political activities with which they disagree.
Opponents of right-to-work argued that workers in states that have passed the law earn $8,740 less per year and workplace injuries and deaths are 41 percent higher in those states. They say Proposition A is promoted by a well-coordinated network of out-of-state billionaires, super PACs, and corporate special interest groups that are laying off workers, shipping jobs overseas and hiding profits offshore to duck paying the taxes families and small businesses must pay.
Yard signs stating “Vote No on Prop A” and “Proud Union Home” stand prominently in most of St. Louis’ middle-class neighborhoods. Commercials funded by both sides had flooded television and radio airwaves.
Scattered thunderstorms did not deter a steady stream of voters at St. Louis-area polling places. Voters waited out the brief downpours in their cars.
Most of the voters leaving the Bernard Middle School poll in south St. Louis County said they were against right-to-work.
“I want to have my right to a job that I want,” Alex McKillop, a Teamster, said. “If you don’t want to be in a union, go somewhere else. Millionaires, billionaires are backing this to try and force this down our throat. Please look at the states that don’t have it and look at the money they’re making. Look at us. I like what I have. I like my insurances. I don’t want to take a pay cut. I can’t afford it.”
Jerry Laaker, a retired Printer’s Union member, said he was also against Proposition A.
“I’m a union man,” Laaker said. “This country is built on unions. I’m 84 years old and I’ve been around this world several times and I know what’s going on.”
Tammy Krull said the issue drew her to the polls. Krull, whose husband and sons are Teamsters, voted no.
Mary Lou Storment was torn on the issue.
“I think people need to have a decent wage,” Storment said. “On the other hand, people need jobs too. I voted yes, even though I think we’ve got to up the minimum wage. We just have to.”
As expected, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill and Attorney General Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee, handily won their primaries for U.S. Senate setting up a much-anticipated showdown in November. Poll aggregator Real Clear Politics has the McCaskill-Hawley race in as a tossup and an earlier poll ranked McCaskill as the third most-precarious status among Democratic incumbents in the U.S. Senate.
McCaskill, who is seeking her third term, earned 82.5 percent of the vote over six challengers with 98 percent of the votes counted.
Hawley, who has the endorsement of President Trump, earned 58.5 percent of the vote over ten challengers, with 98 percent of the votes counted.
One of the biggest surprises came in the St. Louis County Prosecutor race, which had Ferguson overtones.
Wesley Bell beat incumbent Bob McCulloch, earning 55 percent of the vote with 90 percent reported. The two Democrats are the only candidates formally seeking the office, meaning Bell will run unopposed in November’s general election.
McCulloch has been the St. Louis County Prosecutor since 1991, often running unopposed. But McCulloch came under fire for his handling of the Michael Brown shooting, which made national headlines, in 2014.
Bell, a black, 43-year-old former prosecutor and judge was elected to the Ferguson City Council a year after Brown was killed. Bell is a reformist who is seeking to end mass incarceration and end the cash bail system along with appointing a special prosecutor to investigate police shootings.