A controversial new law affecting labor unions in Missouri could be put on hold. Gov. Eric Greitens signed off on right-to-work legislation in February 2017, but union leaders are not giving up their fight.
They're asking registered voters to sign a petition. If they get enough signatures, the issue would be put on the ballot next year, giving voters an opportunity to decide whether to implement the right-to-work law.
The law would otherwise go into effect August 28.
"You get the benefits of the protection of having a union whether that be for bargaining rights or whether arbitration rights, or the same pension ... but you don't have to pay the dues," said Pat White, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council AFL-CIO. "That's how unions survive is by their dues."
Unions are trying to overturn the bill and the petition is the first step.
"You have to get so many signatures in six out of eight congressional districts in the state," White said.
In other words, they need to submit around 100,000 notarized signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State's Office.
"I'm just trying to make sure that everything we do is in accordance with the state constitution and with the state law so that whatever is decided, whatever happened, that's the will of the people, not necessarily my will, but that I'm just the referee," Sec. of State Jay Ashcroft said.
If they get enough signatures, the law may not go into effect.
"It would go on the ballot of November 2018 and we the people would either vote to implement that law or for that law not to go into effect," Ashcroft said.
White said they're still collecting signatures and there is no total count just yet. However, he's hearing there could be around 300,000 signatures so far.
"If that's a real number, it's big for us because the way we feel is that everybody that signed it will probably vote our way," White said.
Ashcroft said, historically, the vast majority of referendums in Missouri have failed.
"There are only two or three that I can think of that passed," he said.
Union leaders have until August 28 to submit the petition. Ashcroft said his office will then scan all petition sheets and send out electronic documents to local election authorities to verify the signatures.