Jackson County prosecutor, Missouri Democratic chair, blames flat budget, missed calls for kerfuffle with union

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Dismisses implication of letter: ‘I don’t believe the union meant it how it read.’

Kansas City, MO – Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says missed communications and a flat county budget are to blame for a recent public dispute over contract negotiations between her office and Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the union representing assistant prosecutors.

Baker, the elected county prosecutor, is also chairwoman of the Missouri Democratic Party.

Assistant prosecutors have been without a contract since Nov. 15 and negotiations over wages and other issues appeared to have reached an impasse on Jan. 8, when member unions within the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO sent a letter saying they wouldn’t support the state or county Democratic parties until Baker either stepped down as party chair or agreed to return to the bargaining table.

IMPLYING SOMETHING
NOT INTENDED

Baker said the letter may have come across implying something that wasn’t intended.

“I think the language was poorly drafted,” she said. “I don’t believe the union meant it how it read. I found no intent on their part to force a deal.”

Baker says she never left the bargaining table, and blamed the public blowup on missed communications between herself and Local 42 President Tim Dupin.

The Kansas City Federation reversed its position Jan. 30 at Local 42’s request.

Baker and Dupin both said they are talking and working toward a resolution.

“We’ve agreed to go back to the table,” Dupin said.

“We’re meeting and we’re talking, and we’re going to get there,” Baker said. “We’re not that far apart.”

BUDGET CONSTRAINTS

A former assistant prosecutor, who was appointed prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in 2012 and again in 2016, Baker has worked to raise the pay of her assistant prosecutors who are represented by Local 42, and her support staff, who are represented by the Carpenters union.

Two years ago, facing county budget constraints and wanting to raise the assistant prosecutors’ and support staffs’ pay commensurate with salary studies, she worked with her office manager to re-engineer her budget, cutting certain programs, eliminating vacant positions and trimming the budget down to the essentials.

That freed up enough funds for 86 percent of the prosecutor’s staff to get raises, some a much as 19 percent, based on their years of experience.

Baker said she wants to give additional raises this year, but the budget approved by the Jackson County Legislature Jan. 30 is flat, with no increases for the prosecutor’s office or any other county office.

Baker said she is continuing to talk with the county legislature and Local 42 to reach a solution.

“We’re not really that far apart on the issues but for the money,” she said.

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