On the heels of Missouri’s astounding beatdown of its right-to-work law earlier this month, organized labor faces a formidable challenge in Rhode Island’s public union-disaffiliation campaign, an offshoot of the SCOTUS ruling in June, citing First Amendment grounds, that non-union workers cannot be compelled to pay dues to the labor group organized at their workplace.
In the Show Me state unions pumped five times the $3 million-plus spent by anti-labor groups for a do-over of the 2017 law giving private-sector workers the OK to forego paycheck deduction to the union.
When Missourians crushed the legislation August 7 by a two-to-one margin it marked the first time voters in any state had tossed out right-to-work. Though 120,0o0 signatures were required to place repeal on the ballot, 300,000 were collected. In the campaign to prevail, pro-union canvassers hit a half-million doors, according to AFL-CIO boss Rich Trumka. It was a sweet reward for the union president marking a half-century in the labor movement. A week before the vote he confidently predicted victory.
Keep in mind fewer than one in ten Missouri households are union. Only three of the state’s counties supported the top of the Democratic ticket in 2016. Still, 100 of 115 counties voted to scrap right-to-work.
But duplicating that labor movement success in New England may be formidable. A $10 million campaign was launched this past week with mysterious funding to stop Rhode Island from deducting from the paychecks of non-union public sector workers, including teachers, almost the equivalent of union dues.
State teachers’ union chief Robert Walsh is fighting the “extreme right wing dark money” behind the anti-labor push. Governor Gina Raimondo, who herself is trying to land another term this fall, says through her spokesman that “the Koch Brothers and their allies” are behind the union disaffiliation effort.
The governor has directed her administration to protect the privacy of public employees by making their postal and online contact information inaccessible. How dare she, proclaims Mike Stenhouse, who heads the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, of the edict issued to coincide with National Employee Freedom Week (August 19 -25), an observance to mark this summer’s High Court decision undoing the longstanding workplace payroll rules.
Stenhouse says while virtually every dollar raised for his Center comes from “local private sources” he is intent on keeping it private. We’ll be watching to see if a Missouri miracle can be duplicated in the Ocean State.