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Environmentalists Step Up to Oppose Anti-Labor Proposition

Environmentalists are opposing a right-to-work proposition in Missouri, saying union members are on the front lines of environmental protections. (Missouri Chapter, Sierra Club)
Environmentalists are opposing a right-to-work proposition in Missouri, saying union members are on the front lines of environmental protections. (Missouri Chapter, Sierra Club)
August 1, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Voters will decide in less than a week whether Missouri will become a right-to-work state, potentially weakening unions.

It isn't just union members and labor groups opposing Proposition A: Environmentalists are standing against the right-to-work proposition as well.

Dennis Roach, a former engineer and union member and a current member of the Sierra Club, said unions are on the front line of environmental protection and were created to address issues of workplace safety.

"I know from my work history," he said, "that unions are a very important line of defense against harmful pollution and chemical spills and other accidents that could devastate a community or injure a worker."

The vote on Proposition A will take place Aug. 7.

Under right-to-work rules, unions can't require employees to pay dues, even though the union would continue to represent them in such issues as collective bargaining. Supporters of the initiative say it would attract businesses to Missouri and grow the state's economy.

Peggy Cochran, former executive director of the Missouri National Education Association and a current Sierra Club member, said unions are critical for protecting whistleblowers, such as teachers who find mold in their classrooms or employees who find out their company is polluting a nearby river.

"Those people are the ones who've been shut down, who've been threatened or whatever, and they got the courage because they got the union strength and the union voice behind them," she said. "They've got the strength to come on out and make those kinds of reports."

Roach said unions also could be good for the skilled laborers required to create a clean economy, such as the wind and solar power sectors. He said a balance between employers and their labor force empowers workers to improve their workplace.

"Businesses benefit from the input from the people that work for them, and the people that work for them benefit from the business," he said. "So the union doesn't want to destroy a company, or else they'd kill their own jobs."

Nationwide, there are 28 right-to-work states.

The text of Proposition A is online at sos.mo.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MO