Jacob leaves labor commission for job with labor union

Friday, January 7, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Former senator Ken Jacob, whose appointment to the state labor commission created a political firestorm, has left government to become executive director of one of the largest labor unions for state employees.

Jacob said Thursday that he resigned as chairman of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission because Republican governor-elect Matt Blunt had pledged during the campaign to remove Jacob from the position.

Blunt is to be sworn in Monday as governor. Jacob resigned Tuesday and went to work Wednesday as executive director of the Missouri and Kansas chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"It was a job that I wanted to stay at and would have been content to stay at," Jacob said. "However, the day that I took the post, governor-elect Blunt announced, if elected, he's history. I took his word for it."

Jacob, then the Senate Democratic leader, lost a primary for lieutenant governor Aug. 3 and soon thereafter was appointed by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden -- who also lost in the primary -- to the state labor commission.

The appointment boosted Jacob's eventual state pension by nearly $19,000 a year, because his 22 years of legislative service counted toward the more lucrative pension system available to administrative law judges.

The three-member labor commission hears appeals on such things as workers' compensation, unemployment compensation and crime victims' compensation cases. The chairmanship, which Jacob held, is designated to represent the public's interest while the other two positions are designated to represent labor and business interests.

Blunt contends Jacob -- an ardent labor supporter in the legislature -- wasn't qualified to be chairman.

Blunt and some lawmakers have called for changes to retirement laws to prevent the instant pension boosts enjoyed by Jacob and other officials who have served only briefly on the commission.

Blunt said Jacob's new union job shows he never should have been appointed to the commission.

"It is compelling evidence -- just as his prior history -- that he wasn't a good person to serve as a neutral chairman of the commission," Blunt said Thursday.

Jacob said Blunt never gave him a chance.

The two may clash again in their new roles.

As one of his first acts as governor, Blunt intends to rescind Holden's executive order broadening powers for state employee unions and allowing fees to be deducted from the paychecks of some employees who aren't union members.

Contracts negotiated by AFSCME include provisions for the fees. The union already has sued once as part of an effort to collect the fees and may renew its challenge after Blunt becomes governor.

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