State employees union says dues to be collected this fall

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A labor union that hopes to begin receiving money this fall from state employees who are not union members has sent letters to workers saying dues will be collected as early as mid-September.

But the Office of Administration said Tuesday there are no plans to collect the money yet.

For more than three years, labor unions and Democratic Gov. Bob Holden have clashed with Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt and the GOP-led legislature over collective bargaining.

Blunt is running for governor against Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill.

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 dues, called "fair-share" fees, from employees who don't join the union, to help cover negotiating costs.

Legislators passed a resolution this spring blocking the administrative rule that would allow for deduction of those dues, but Holden vetoed it.

Blunt has said he believes the rule is illegal and does not plan to publish it. Publishing of the rule in the Missouri Register, a duty of the secretary of state, is required before it can take effect.

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 Council 72.

Together, the unions say they represent more than 10,000 employees, from patient care providers and professionals in the Mental Health Department, Missouri veterans homes and the Department of Corrections to maintenance workers in various agencies.

Since last September, to get hired in those units, new employees have agreed to join the union or to have the fees withheld. So far, no fees from nonunion members have been collected.

AFSCME spokesman Kevin Heyen said Tuesday that the union has asked the Office of Administration to collect the dues by Oct. 1, whether Blunt publishes the rule or not. AFSCME sent the letter to workers telling them dues will be collected as early as mid-September.

"Our belief is he has no right to do what he's doing. We're moving forward as planned," Heyen said Tuesday. "We think it'll happen October 1, whether it's been published or not."

The union also has sued, seeking to force Blunt to publish the rule. Briefings are due in that case Sept. 15. SEIU, meanwhile, said it's just waiting for the matter to be resolved.

Republicans say the rule ignores a state law that prohibits withholding 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.

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