Holden vetoes legislation blocking collective bargaining rule

Thursday, February 26, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Bob Holden vetoed legislation Wednesday that sought to block the collection of union bargaining fees from state employees who do not belong to unions.

The Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders have been sparring over unions' role in state government since Holden signed an executive order granting collective bargaining rights to thousands of state workers in June 2001.

Among other things, that order gave unions the power to collect fees from non-union employees covered by bargaining units to help cover the costs of negotiations.

Legislators passed a resolution earlier this month blocking an administrative rule that would create a procedure for deducting those dues from employee paychecks.

Republicans said the rule ignored a state law that prohibits withholding any money from employees' paychecks without their agreement. Holden and other Democrats argue that employees in essence gave their approval because their unit voted to join a union.

Holden, in vetoing the resolution Wednesday, said the legal reasons cited by lawmakers did not hold up.

"Members of the General Assembly simply object to collective bargaining by state government employees and thus seek to block the mechanisms that make such bargaining possible," Holden said in a letter explaining his veto.

Override possible

But Holden's veto may not be the final word.

Legislators could override the veto by two-thirds majorities in each chamber -- 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House -- but that would require the support of some Democrats, which supporters acknowledge is unlikely. If the legislature does not override the veto, the Office of Administration could send the rule to the secretary of state, which must publish rules in the Missouri Register for them to take effect.

Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt, who is running for governor, has said previously that he believes the union-fee rule is illegal and that he would not publish it unless it were changed.

"Secretary Blunt's position is the same," spokesman Spence Jackson said Wednesday. "He does not intend to publish a rule that violates a state law. ... The law only authorizes those fees to be deducted from members of the union, not non-members."

The fees are included in contracts negotiated by the Service Employees International Union, Local 2000, and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union, Council 72. Together, they cover about 6,000 patient care providers and professionals in the Mental Health Department, Missouri veterans homes and the Department of Corrections.

Since Sept. 1, to get hired in those units, employees have agreed to join the union or to have the fees withheld. But no fees have been collected yet, because the rule-making process is not complete.

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Union-fee resolution is HCR5.

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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