Blunt publishes union rule but plans to revoke it once sworn in

Thursday, December 16, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Complying with a court order, Secretary of State Matt Blunt published a new rule Wednesday allowing union fees to be deducted from the paychecks of non-union state employees beginning Jan. 30.

But when Blunt becomes governor Jan. 10, he plans to revoke the executive order serving as the basis for the rule -- making the effect of the rule unclear and potentially a matter for a court to decide.

The rule publication is the latest twist in a 3 1/2 year saga stemming from Democratic Gov. Bob Holden's executive order granting state employee unions expanded powers through collective bargaining.

Included was the ability to deduct service fees -- intended to cover the cost of contract negotiations -- from employees who don't join the union yet are part of the union's bargaining unit.

Although a common practice in the private sector, Blunt and other Republicans contended the fees violated a state law against involuntary deductions from state employees' paychecks. As such, Blunt refused to publish the final rule in the Missouri Register, which must occur for a rule to take effect.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued and won a court judgment last month ordering Blunt to publish the rule by Dec. 15, which Blunt did Wednesday. The rule will take effect Jan. 30 because of the state's standard time lag for such things.

But Blunt said he plans to rescind Holden's collective bargaining order on Jan. 11 -- his first full day in the governor's office.

So "the rule is essentially moot because the executive order is going to be repealed," Blunt said in interview.

But that may not settle the matter.

The union service fees are included in two contracts negotiated between AFSCME and the state that run through June 30, 2006. The contracts cover about 6,000 state employees providing patient care in veterans homes and mental health facilities and doing maintenance work at state parks and office buildings.

"The executive order is obviously important. But if he does revoke it, we still think the contracts are valid," said Kevin Heyen, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 72, based in Jefferson City. "We're prepared to go to court to protect those contracts."


On the Net:

AFSCME: http://www.afscme.org

Secretary of State: http://www.sos.mo.gov

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