Debunking the specious claims underlying Missouri’s anti–collective bargaining law

Next month, the Missouri Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case about collective bargaining for public-sector workers in Missouri. With collective bargaining rights enshrined in the state’s constitution, the case revolves around whether onerous restrictions placed on public-sector unions and collective bargaining in a 2018 law unconstitutionally infringe on those rights. EPI has filed a friend of the court (“amicus curiae”) brief in the case to debunk some of the specious claims used by proponents of the law and to show how the law will hurt workers, employers, communities, and the economy.

EPI’s brief shows how weakening collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers will worsen the pay gap that women workers and workers of color face when their wages are compared with those of white men. We cite a new study documenting that Wisconsin went from having no wage gap to having a significant wage gap after state legislators and then-governor Scott Walker weakened the state’s public-sector collective bargaining law. EPI’s brief also explains how weakening collective bargaining rights deprives workers of due process and a proven means for challenging arbitrary or discriminatory treatment.

One of the most problematic provisions in the Missouri law requires public-sector unions to be recertified every three years. A majority of the bargaining unit (not just a majority of voting bargaining unit members) would need to vote to affirm their support for the union. This requirement would force public-sector unions, already burdened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, to expend scarce resources turning out members for a vote every three years.

The recertification requirement is unnecessary because under Missouri law, like other collective bargaining laws, workers have the right to file for a decertification vote if they want to initiate a vote on whether to keep their union. One pretext used by proponents of the recertification requirement is that the workforce in three years may not resemble the workforce today due to employee turnover. This argument ignores the fact that turnover in the public sector is roughly half that of the private sector. EPI’s brief includes these statistics and explains why the recertification requirement is unnecessary.

Proponents of the Missouri restrictions also argue that collective bargaining is unfair to young workers. This argument is not only wrong—because young workers, like all workers, benefit from the improvements workers are able to achieve through collective bargaining—but also ironic, given recent research showing that support for unions is highest among young workers. According to Gallup, 71% of workers ages 18–34 approve of unions.

The coalition of unions challenging Missouri’s law won in the trial court. For the sake of workers, employers, and communities in Missouri, the Missouri Supreme Court should agree with the trial court and strike down this wrong-headed law.