While there wasn’t much attention paid to labor issues in the 2016 race, voters in a handful of states decided contests that could have a big impact on union membership.
These measures mainly involved right-to-work statutes, which ban contracts that force workers to pay labor organizations for representation. Two states voted on placing right-to-work provisions in their state constitutions. Alabama voters approved their state’s measure by 70%, while 54% of Virginia voters rejected their state ballot question (Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who had expresses support for right-to-work previously, campaigned against the measure). With both Alabama and Virginia already states that have right-to-work legislation on the books, the success or failure of these measures do not change anything for workers. The move to put them in the state constitution was simply an effort to give right-to-work a stronger status as state law.
South Dakota voters also faced a ballot measure that was related to union membership. Eighty percent of the state’s voters rejected Measure 23, which would have allowed unions to charge non-union workers a fee for representation.
These ballot measures were not the only election results that affected right-to-work laws. Because of changes in which party controls the governorship or state legislature, three states could enact right-to-work laws in 2017:
Kentucky – prior to the 2016 election, Kentucky’s governor and state senate supported right-to-work legislation. The state’s voters gave Republicans control of the other chamber of the state legislature, so that means it is likely that Kentucky will see a successful push to enact a right-to-work law in 2017.
Missouri – legislators in Missouri have passed right-to-work legislation, but Governor Jay Nixon vetoed it. With the election of Republican Eric Greitens, however, there is a clear path to enacting right-to-work in 2017.
New Hampshire – similar to Missouri, legislative attempts to enact right-to-work in New Hampshire have been blocked in recent years by a Democratic governor. The state’s voters chose Republican Chris Sununu to be governor in 2017, however, which means likely success for a right-to-work bill.
Do you think that these states should enact right-to-work laws?