Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Labor unions in Missouri moved to block right-to-work legislation from going into effect, submitting more than 300,000 petitions to force a referendum on the matter in 2018.
The Republican-controlled state Legislature passed a right-to-work bill earlier this year that was signed by GOP Gov. Eric Greitens, who campaigned heavily on the issue. The legislation is similar to other states in that it bans mandatory union dues in organized workplaces, allowing workers to leave the collective bargaining unit with no recourse for the union that represents them.
Right-to-work legislation passed in 27 other states has led to sharply decreased union enrollment. Opponents argue the legislation enables employers to cut worker wages.
The law was scheduled to go into effect Aug. 28.
Under Missouri law, if more than 100,000 registered voters sign a petition to repeal a law, a referendum must be held. The rule has not been utilized since 1982, but in the 26 times in state history where a petition triggered a repeal referendum, it has succeeded 24 times in the subsequent popular vote, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Missouri chapter of the AFL-CIO delivered 310,567 signatures, wheeled in carton after carton, to Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's office. Ashcroft must certify the signatures as valid before the referendum can be called.
Union leaders celebrated the petition drive with a boisterous rally outside the statehouse in Jefferson City on Friday.
"I think the people have spoken and they are not all union people. This is democracy in action," said Democratic state Rep. Doug Beck, who is a union pipefitter.