Missouri shows everyone

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Missouri shows everyone

On Tuesday, voters in Missouri overwhelming rejected the state’s recently passed right to work law. The result was a significant win for the state’s labor movement. But it also has significant implications beyond the Show-Me State.

The rejection of Missouri’s “right to work” legislation, an Orwellian term for a law that kneecaps unions by allowing workers to benefit from a union while opting out of paying dues, exposes a huge cleavage in American politics.

Republicans, including President Trump, are increasingly running on populist messaging, expressing their affinity for the everyman. At the same time, Republican elected officials are pursuing policies that benefit the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

The people versus the powerful

This week’s vote was in response to a bill passed by Missouri’s legislature in 2017. It was approved by huge margins -- 100-59 in the Missouri House and 21-12 in the Missouri Senate. It was quickly signed into law by then-Republican Governor Eric Greitens.

Missouri Rep. Holly Rehder said she believed that the election of Republicans to the legislature indicated that the legislation had the support of the people. “I feel that when you look at the majority of representatives who voted for this and if their districts support them, then you do have a majority of Missourians that are for this law,” she said.

She was wrong.

In yesterday’s ballot initiative Missouri voters rejected the law just as emphatically. 67.5% of Missourians voted to roll back the law, while just 32.5% supported it.

How right to work weakens unions

No one is forced to join a union. But in the absence of right to work laws, workers in a unionized company still have to pay dues. The rationale is that these workers still reap the benefits negotiated by the union and should pay their fair share.

Non-members are not required to pay whatever portion of dues goes to political activity, so their dues are lower, depending on the political activity of the union.

Right to work laws create a free rider problem. Workers can opt out of the union, pay no dues and still get the benefits of collective bargaining. Over time, this starves the union of resources and makes it more difficult for unions to be effective. The less effective unions are, the less attractive it is to form new unions or maintain the unions that exist.

The right to lower wages

A 2015 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that states with right to work laws have “$1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.” This is because right to work laws weaken unions. This impacts workers whether they work for a union shop or not because “unionization raises wages both for individual union members as well as for nonunion workers in unionized sectors.”

The trick that didn’t work

Missouri’s Republican-dominated legislature pulled out all the stops to try to save the right to work law. In May, they voted to move the date of the vote from November to the August primary. It was viewed as an effort to “give Republican-backed right to work an advantage in a low-turnout primary election.”

It didn’t work out.

Bucking the trend

There are now 27 states that have right to work laws on the books. In recent years that number has been steadily increasing. Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia have all adopted right to work laws in the last six years.

All those states, however, enacted right to work laws through a vote of the legislature rather than a ballot initiative.

Manufacturing the decline of unions

In 2017, 10.7% of the American workforce was unionized. That’s down from 20.1% in 1983. In the 1950s, “roughly one-third of American workers were union members.”  

Some of this decline is due to right to work laws. But even states without right to work laws have seen unionization rates drop. In Missouri, just 8.7% of workers are unionized, down from 13% in 2003.

A big factor behind the drop nationwide is the decline of manufacturing work, which is more heavily unionized. As factories shut down, the unions are shut down too.

Life after Janus

A stronghold for unions remains the public sector workforce, where 34.4% of workers are unionized. But a Supreme Court decision this year, Janus, allows all public employees the right not to pay union dues as if they were covered by right to work laws.

Janus was a significant blow to the labor movement. The vote in Missouri last night shows there is still the ability to fight back. Don’t be surprised to see similar initiatives on the ballot in other states in the years to come.

Quotable: MLK Jr. on “right to work” laws


Kansas Republican plans to oversee his own recount

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for Governor and is locked in a tight battle against Jeff Colyer, the incumbent.

Now, he’s planning to oversee his own recount.

With all counties reporting, Kobach holds a 191 vote lead. Some provisional and mail-in ballots still need to be counted. As Secretary of State, Kobach is tasked with overseeing recounts. He told the Kansas City Star that, if there is a recount, he will not recuse himself.

Kobach’s claim to fame

Kobach is best known for his role as Vice Chairman of President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity. Trump elevated him to the role after Kobach demonstrated a willingness to support Trump’s wild claims about voting fraud, including the notion that Hillary Clinton received millions of illegal votes.

The commission was disbanded after states recoiled from expansive requests from Kobach for voter data, which many feared would be used for nationwide voter suppression efforts. Kobach did not uncover any evidence of voter fraud.

Kobach’s belief in voter fraud is so strong he told ThinkProgress’ Kira Lerner that illegal votes could have “absolutely” put him over the top in Tuesday’s primary.

A contemptuous approach

Kobach has also had legal troubles. He was recently held in contempt of court for refusing to abide by a judge’s order. At issue was a law championed by Kobach that required people to prove their citizenship before registering to vote. Kobach ignored a judge’s order requiring him  “to notify people who had tried to register while renewing or applying for a driver’s license that they were indeed eligible to vote.”

He also violated basic court rules so often the judge ordered him to attend six hours of legal education.


Photo of the day: Insider trading on the White House lawn?

Rep. Christopher Collins (R-NY), the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, was indicted on Wednesday for insider trading. Collins sat on the board of directors of Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, a small Australian pharmaceutical company that was banking on regulatory approval of a single drug, MIS416, which was supposed to treat multiple sclerosis.

On June 22, Innate’s CEO informed the board, including Collins, that the clinical trial for MIS416 had not shown it to be any more effective than a placebo.

Just a couple of minutes after Collins read the email, at 7:16 PM, he allegedly called his son Cameron and advised him to dump his extensive holdings in Innate stock before the news went public.

Remarkably, Collins was on the White House lawn at the time and can be seen in this video still on the phone, allegedly tipping off his son.

According to the indictment, Cameron Collins took his Dad’s advice and quickly sold his shares. When the news became public, Innate stock lost 92% of its value. The timely sale saved the younger Collins about $570,000 in losses.

In a news conference on Wednesday night, Christopher Collins claimed he did nothing wrong and would remain a candidate for reelection in November.


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