Right-to-work rises as top issue for most Democratic candidates

Proposition A, also known as right-to-work, is on the primary ballot this Tuesday. In many competitive Democratic primaries, it has become a driving issue across the board with most candidates working with the Vote No campaign and making the issue central to their candidacy.

In Senate District 14, there is a three-way primary between Rep. Joe Adams, Rep. Sharon Pace, and Brian Williams. All three are opposed Prop A.

Adams, who was elected mayor of University City in 1995 before heading to the state Capitol as a state Representative, said right-to-work is a driving force for voters in the area.

“[Right-to-work] is important, it does come up just about everywhere,” Adams said. “Citizens ask your position on that issue…it is the focus for a large portion of the population. I see it across the board. I think it’s an issue all across the state because it is an attack on the working people of Missouri.”

All three candidates passionately oppose right-to-work, which was last on the ballot in Missouri in 1978 as Amendment 23. Amendment 23 had a 20 point loss, with 948,387 voting no and 631,829 voting yes.

“Hopefully the workers in the State of Missouri won’t see this again for another 40 years,” Adams said. “I am quite concerned and want Prop A to go down in a large defeat.”

Adams said the Democratic candidates he has seen have all opposed Prop A.

Williams has also kept Prop A front and center in his messaging.

“Union support is personal for me,” Williams said. “Working families, like my own, are under attack. It’s imperative that we have fresh leadership in Jefferson City that will fight to protect jobs and working people. I am confident that we will defeat Prop A on August 7.”

The St. Louis County Executive seat is up for election, with current Executive Steve Stenger, an ardent support of unions, running for re-election with opposition from Mark Mantovani.

Both candidates oppose right-to-work, but Mantovani donated to the campaign of the Governor who campaigned on and eventually signed the bill that became Prop A, a fact Stenger’s campaign has not let voters forget. Stenger calls Mantovani’s opposition to right-to-work that of “political expediency.”

“My opposition to right-to-work is not out of political expediency, it runs in my blood,” Stenger posted on Facebook on August 1. “My dad was a union lineman and because of his union job we were able to thrive as a middle-class family. Prop A aims to destroy the middle-class. I not only had time to sign the 2018 petition but I actively encouraged others to sign to put the repeal of ‘right-to-work’ on the ballot. My opponent may say he is anti ‘right-to-work’ but my brothers and sisters in the movement know the truth. He didn’t ‘have time’ to sign the petition and his 20k donation to Greitens helped him pass this awful legislation. Our time is now, we must defeat Prop A and build stronger unions with more members! I hope I can earn your vote on Tuesday in the Democratic primary.”

Mantovani says he opposes the measure. His campaign site says a priority for him is  “[w]orking to stop right-to-work legislation in the interest of the shrinking middle class and collective bargaining rights and in support of unions.”

Also in St. Louis County, which boasts the largest amount of Democratic representation in the state house, one competitive primary worth watching has been the race to replace termed Rep. Stacy Newman in the 87th House district, where Sam Gladney and Ian Mackey have risen as top contenders.

The 87th District straddles Senate Districts 14 and 5, which are respectively represented by Sen. Jake Hummel and termed-Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Hummel is the secretary-treasurer of Missouri AFL-CIO, one of the largest unions in the state.

“Any candidate for office should make [the right to organize] a hallmark of their campaign,” Gladney said. “I have been criticized for making opposition to right-to-work a hallmark of my campaign, that’s something I don’t hide from and don’t make excuses about. I think even though there are not a lot of union members in my district, that is something the Democratic Party has to stand firm on…I don’t think it is appropriate to say, ‘just because there isn’t a lot of group x in my district, I don’t care about it.’ That is the wrong way for us to go forward.

“We have to be strong on all core Democratic fronts: [pro-]choice, gun control, and [anti-]right-to-work.”

Mackey did not return requests for comment, but commented on right-to-work in his answers to the St. Louis Young Democrats’ Candidate Endorsement Guide.

“In terms of issues, I notice my opponent often highlighting his opposition to right to work and union/labor issues as the hallmark of his campaign,” Mackey wrote. “I agree with him on those issues, but my hallmarks tend to be education, and criminal justice reform.”