The latest edition of the Springfield Business Journal seems to indicate that our business community isn’t listening to the voters of Greene County or Missouri.
In the recent “Workforce & Skills” publication, the responses to a presumed questionnaire show the people included in the survey didn’t pay close attention to the August 2018 vote on Proposition A. Let me refresh their memories. Proposition A, the so-called right-to-work law, was repealed by a majority of voters in Greene County and across Missouri. In Greene County, more than 55% of the voters wanted it repealed. Across Missouri, two out of every three voters said no.
What part of no don’t you understand?
When majorities of that size speak up, that should settle the question. And yet, the business journal asks the loaded question of do we need right-to-work. The respondents all likely come from groups either predisposed to favor the lower wages right-to-work brings or people who still don’t understand what it means. I have to think the question was asked with no context, only the misleading “right-to-work” label. [Editor’s note: The question in SBJ’s 2019 Economic Growth Survey was stated as, “In your opinion, which of the following employment relationships would be best for the state of Missouri in the future? A. Right to Work. B. Collective Bargaining. C. No opinion/don’t know. D. Not applicable to my business.” The majority of survey respondents were business owners, executives and managers.]
The industry most familiar to me is heavy construction. There are some easy comparisons with our right-to-work neighbors in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Imagine a construction laborer working on U.S. Highway 65 in Greene or Taney counties. In 2018, that laborer would earn $25.16 an hour, plus more than $13 an hour in benefits for health insurance and pensions. That wage is paid to union and nonunion laborers. A laborer doing the same work in Boone County, Arkansas, on U.S. Highway 65 would be paid a little more than $12 an hour with no benefits.
In Greene, Lawrence and Jasper counties, a construction laborer working on Interstate 44 would make that same wage as their counterparts on U.S. Highway 65. Cross the state line into Oklahoma, and a construction laborer doing the same work would be paid $10.64 an hour with no benefits.
Those are Department of Labor figures, not something we invented. So, how does that lower wage benefit anyone?
Better wages for skilled workers are good for everyone. Workers who earn more spend more, supporting local businesses. They can afford to enjoy local attractions, like the Springfield Cardinals, local college sports and everything Branson has to offer. They can afford to buy homes and pay property taxes to support local schools.
Did you ask local workers what they think of right-to-work in your survey? Probably not. The statewide ballot in August 2018 did ask the working people of this state that question.
We said no. Listen and pay attention.
—Jeff Phillips, communications and outreach manager, Western Missouri & Kansas Laborers District Council
Missouri Association of Manufacturers event sets record in third year.