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Right-to-work holdouts face new efforts to change labor laws

Hemmed in by a growing number of states that block mandatory union fees in workplaces, holdout states in the Midwest are facing renewed attempts to enact right-to-work laws.

Missouri’s new law will go to a statewide referendum in November, while a pair of Republican lawmakers in Ohio announced last month they want to put the issue before voters in two years.

“The Missouri legislature and Governor Greitens showed great leadership in passing the right-to-work legislation in Missouri last session,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “We hope voters will agree that workers should have a choice and unions should have to prove their worth to their members. When they vote on the issue, we hope union workers will vote to support themselves and their ability to choose rather than just following along with what union leaders want them to do by blindly supporting unions that may not do a good job of representing them or provide enough benefit to justify their union dues. That is all the right-to-work law does – it does not eliminate unions entirely,” said McCarty.

It wasn’t long ago that Indiana became the first Rust Belt state to enact right-to-work in 2012. Nearby states including Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky followed — leaving Ohio, Illinois and Missouri nearly surrounded.

Right-to-work backers in those three remaining states contend they’re now at a disadvantage and in danger of being left behind because the laws make nearby states more business friendly and attract jobs.

“My fear is that if we don’t do this, we will see states like Indiana and Michigan pull away,” said Rep. Craig Riedel, an Ohio Republican who wants the GOP-controlled legislature to put six right-to-work amendments on the 2020 ballot.

Right-to-work advocates often point to states such as Kentucky, where the head of an aluminum company that announced plans last spring to build a $1.3 billion plant there said it would’ve gone elsewhere if it hadn’t become a right-to-work state earlier in the year, as examples of why legislation is needed.

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