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State workers create association to push rights

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Faced with no pay increases and rising health care costs, some state employees have created an association to lobby on their behalf at the Capitol.

The newly formed Missouri Association of State Employees will allow the roughly 65,000 state workers to become part of the group for an annual fee of $144 a year.

Travis Brown, a lobbyist hired as the executive director of the association, said Tuesday that the group is not a union but rather a professional organization designed to promote the needs of state workers in a time of budget cuts and employment changes.

Brown said states such as Alabama, Colorado and Oklahoma have similar organizations that have been successful.

"During these challenging times, having a professional voice in the state Capitol is critical," said Brown, who added that the association has little money on hand.

Employees who join the association will get coverage for eye glasses, chiropractic services, podiatry services and legal and financial planning.

The group "can provide these valuable benefits to state employees, who are looking for additional health coverage under a group plan," said R.C. Miller, a 31-year state employee and the founding chairman of the group. "With the anticipated changes in the state health care plan, MASE will provide an additional route to elect other coverage at affordable rates."

There already are other non-union associations that represent state workers, including the Missouri Corrections Officers Association and the Missouri State Trooper's Association.

Brown said members of other state worker associations would be eligible to join the new association, though there has been no discussions with those groups about overlapping representation.

Ken Sears, executive director of the Missouri State Troopers Association, said he had not heard of the new group but would not discourage those who may want to join.

However, Sears said that the interests of state workers vary from agency to agency.

"To represent one whole group would be extremely difficult," Sears said. "With all the difference funding sources, I don't know how there can be one size that fits all."


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