Judge rebukes Parson administration over effort to break union representing prison guards

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Orders state to resume collecting union dues

A COLE COUNTY JUDGE has slapped down the Parson Administration’s effort to break the union representing Missouri prison guards by stopping automatic withdrawal of dues for members of the Missouri Corrections Officer Association. Circuit Judge Jon Beetem said the state’s decision to stop collecting union dues in the midst of contract negotiations was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.” – Screencap Missouri Department of Corrections

Jefferson City — A judge has ordered Missouri to begin collecting union dues from prison workers, finding that an attempt by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to break the union is illegal.

In a scathing, 43-page decision, Circuit Judge Jon Beetem said the decision by the state Office of Administration to stop collecting the dues from members of the Missouri Corrections Officer Association (MOCOA) in the midst of deadlocked contract negotiations was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

The state stopped automatic withdrawal of union dues in 2019 as the Office of Administration and the union were negotiating a new contract. The state argued at the time that the workers were no longer in a union since the contract had expired.

The move left the association with a massive funding shortfall, resulting in the closure of its headquarters, the loss of two staff and an end to the payout of hardship benefits to members.

Beetem said the state’s action was a violation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and association and was illegal because the administration did not apply similar decisions to other Labor unions representing state employees.

“It penalizes them for exercise of the right to organize and bargain collectively, by denying them payroll deduction authority, while other employee associations, who seek to promote the welfare of employees and to lobby like MOCOA, continue to receive the benefit,” Beetem wrote,

The Office of Administration’s “willingness to act contrary to its purported guidelines, or to use different interpretations of the rules, for some vendors, but not MOCOA, is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” the judge wrote.

Missouri state employees are among the lowest paid in the nation, and the Parson administration seems help bent on keeping it that way.

SECOND DEFEAT FOR STATE’S UNION-BUSTING AGENDA
In May, Beetem ruled that the governor must resume contract talks with Labor unions representing a wide swath of employees, saying that a 2018 law, signed by former Gov. Eric Greitens on his final day in office, making state workers at-will employees was unconstitutional and does not restrict collective bargaining.

The law sought to undermine union leverage by altering the state’s merit system by making it easier to hire, fire and reward workers.

Beetem said the state must abide by the terms of the now-expired contracts until a new agreement is reached or an impasse occurs.

The decision, which is being appealed by Attorney General Eric Schmitt, affects an estimated 13,465 state employees covered by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Communications Workers of America Local 6355 and Service Employees International Union, Local 1.


 

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