I was headed into the public library when a guy outside asked, “Sir, are you a registered voter?” I knew where this was going. He had a petition or two he’d like me to sign.
I had recently added my name to the list of Missourians who want to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana, and to another that would raise the minimum wage. Getting enough signatures on any petition wouldn’t be enough to turn it into law, but would get it on the ballot for a public referendum later this year.
The library is a common place for these petition requests. I told the guy that yes, I am a registered voter, and asked what the petitions were for. He replied that one of his petitions was “to preserve historical monuments” and the other was “to protect freedom of speech at work.”
Those one sentence summaries sounded like pure right-wing bullshit, but I wanted to take a look at the wording on the clipboards, just to be sure.
The petition “to preserve historical monuments” reads:
Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to require that certain historic memorials of any age on public property, such as statues, names of schools, streets, bridges and buildings named or dedicated in honor of any historic conflict, entity, event, or figure, may not be removed, renamed, or otherwise changed in certain ways unless provided by law?
What it doesn’t say but really means:
We have statues and stuff named after leaders of the Confederacy, and we don’t want anyone to take them down or rename them, as they have in many other cities and states, regardless of how offensive they are. We’re proud of our racist past — and present.
The other one, “to protect freedom of speech at work,” has nothing to do with your First Amendment rights and everything to do with yet another attempt to hurt unions. It reads:
Do you want to amend the Missouri Constitution to provide that the freedom of speech protects every worker from being forced to join a union (labor organization) or pay a fee to a union in order to gain or keep a job?
This is part of the conservative Right To Work agenda that has set unions back tremendously in this state and others. It seeks to allow workers to reap the rewards of collective bargaining without having to contribute to the organizations that negotiate them. Those pushing this as a “freedom of speech” issue are deflecting from the true agenda — corporate America and billionaires trying to gain even more of the power in the workplace by conning working women and men into believing it’s in their best interests, when it clearly isn’t.
I wasn’t in the mood to argue with the guy, so I told him I’d pass and handed the clipboards back to him. Then I made a mental note to write about this as a heads-up to others who might blindly sign the petitions because they are fooled by the language, which is right out of the Frank Luntz playbook.