Kinder sues governor over bargaining rights

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Southeast Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder is spearheading a legal challenge of Gov. Bob Holden's controversial executive order that granted collective bargaining rights to many state employees.

Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, Democratic state Rep. Quincy Troupe of St. Louis and others filed a lawsuit Monday in Cole County Circuit Court seeking to overturn the governor's order as unconstitutional.

"The governor's order is a quagmire of legal conflicts and constitutional transgressions," Kinder said. "We are filing this suit today to protect workers and the public policy processes of this state against further damage by the governor's action."

Kinder had indicated a lawsuit would be forthcoming. He said he informed the governor's office in advance that the suit would be filed.

Jerry Nachtigal, Holden's spokesman, said the lawsuit came as no surprise.

"The governor is confident the courts will rule he acted within his constitutional authority when he signed this executive order," Nachtigal said.

Missouri AFL-CIO president Hugh McVey, whose group helped draft the order, didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

The governor signed the executive order, which extended collective bargaining to approximately 30,000 state workers, on June 29 in a private ceremony attended by organized labor representatives, who praised the action. The response from other quarters was both swift and negative.

The lawsuit asks that Holden's order be overturned on a number of grounds, including:

* It violates the constitutional separation of powers by usurping legislative authority.

* It allows the state to forcibly collect union dues from state workers who choose not to join a union, thus violating due process protections.

* It violates the civil rights of state workers.

* It authorizes the executive branch to spend money for unconstitutional purposes.

The partnership of Kinder, a rural conservative, and Troupe, an urban liberal, in the lawsuit is unusual. While Kinder opposes public employee collective bargaining, Troupe supports it. However, Troupe is troubled that his fellow Democrat's action both bypassed the Legislature and didn't go far enough.

"The governor's executive order, in my opinion, divides the public employees in this state by giving some state workers the right to have unions but no constitutional right to strike or have binding arbitration procedures, which cannot be a mandate upon the state legislative appropriations process," Troupe said.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the state chamber of commerce, the Missouri Municipal League, Associated Industries of Missouri, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. and six state employees subject to the order.

Those groups and others, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, have formed the Coalition to Repeal Executive Order 01-09 Inc. That group is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Kinder said the coalition is prepared for an extended legal battle that he expects ultimately will be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court.

He and other coalition members are privately raising funds to pay for the services of the three law firms representing them in the suit.

"We are not entering into this lightly," Kinder said. "It will be a six-figure legal tab before it is all over."

Last month Kinder, as leader of the Senate, created the Senate Interim Committee on Public Employee Collective Bargaining to investigate events that led to Holden's signing of the order and its potential impact. Democratic senators have refused to serve on the panel, branding it a political exercise.

Kinder said the committee will continue its work independent of the court challenge.

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