EDITORIAL: Zombie law suppresses labor rights

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Missouri voters who thought their recent, overwhelming rejection of a “right to work” proposition would finally end Republican efforts to undermine collective bargaining should know that it’s not over.

Like a horror-flick zombie that keeps lurching back to life, a previously signed state law arose last week to attack those union protections from a different angle.

The new law, passed this year and officially effective as of last week, puts gratuitous new requirements on how unions organize, bargain, collect dues and affect politics in representing their workers. A group of unions is suing to overturn it on state constitutional grounds.

After the 2-to-1 defeat of the anti-union Proposition A on Aug. 7, that legal effort shouldn’t even be necessary; a legislature that cared at all about the clear message working people sent with that vote would kill this law themselves.

But since that’s not the legislature we have, the court case is necessary. It’s crucial that the plaintiffs win it.

The law was one of several anti-union measures signed by former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens shortly before he resigned in disgrace June 1. Others signed in the same batch included the right-to-work law that the voters later staked through the heart with Prop A.

That one would have prohibited mandatory fees in private-sector union shops — a transparent attempt by the GOP-controlled legislature and its business allies to strip worker protections by gutting union finances.

The newly enacted law would require that public-sector unions hold regular recertification votes to continue their representation, require annually renewed employee permission to deduct dues from paychecks, limit bargaining topics and restrict union spending on political causes.

The provisions are designed to harass and hinder organized-labor operations that for generations have lifted the living standards of workers, generally over the opposition of forces such as the ones behind this kind of legislation. Given that today’s Republican Party is in virtually open warfare against worker rights, the provision to restrict union political activities looks especially self-serving.

The unions are seeking an injunction to prevent enforcement of the new law. They claim it violates the Missouri Constitution in areas including free speech, due process and the very right of employees “to organize and to bargain collectively.”

The entire concept of collective bargaining requires a unified front by workers to press for acceptable pay, benefits and working conditions. Republicans here and nationally will continue lurching relentlessly against that unified front for as long as their party holds power. As we saw on Aug. 7, democracy is the ultimate weapon against it. Another opportunity is coming on Nov. 6. Until then, the unions and their backers should zealously pursue their court case and overturn this zombie law.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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