Members of St. Louis Board of Aldermen announce lawsuit against charter amendment Proposition R

Whether intentional or not, the amendment targets Organized Labor

SAM GLADNEY, of the Gladney Law Group, explains the lawsuit challenging St. Louis City’s Prop R at the May 4 meeting of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. At left is John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades Council; at right is Mike Kelley, president of the Kelley Group. – Labor Tribune photo

Several members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen filed a lawsuit May 10 seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from Proposition R, an amendment to the St. Louis City Charter approved by voters on April 2022.

Serving as plaintiffs in the suit are Alderwoman Marlene Davis, Alderwoman Carol Howard, Alderman John Collins Muhammad and Alderman Jack Coatar. Additional aldermen and citizens are expected to join the suit as plaintiffs in coming days. The suit was filed in the Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis. Attorneys for the group are Sam Gladney (Gladney Law Group), Elkin Kistner (Kistner, Hamilton, Elam & Martin) and Darryl Piggee (Stone, Leyton and Gershman).

Prop R not only dissuades people from public service but penalizes union workers and union families from having an advocate on the Board of Alderman.

The Missouri-Kansas Laborers District Council, Laborers’ Local 42, Laborers’ Local 110, and St. Louis Building Construction Trades Council urged city voters to reject Prop R before the April 5 vote.

They cited, among other things, that the amendment prohibits any alderperson from voting on union contracts with police, fire, city workers, that increase wages or benefits if someone in the union is related to the alderperson as a child, grandchild, great-grandchild, parent, sibling, niece/nephew, great niece/nephew, grandparent, aunt, uncle, first cousin, great grandparent, great aunt or uncle, great-great-grandparent.

In practice, Prop R requires Board of Alderman members with even a distant relation to a union member to either quit the board, abstain from voting or be counted as present, meaning their vote will automatically be counted as a “no,” not a “non-vote” on these issues.

“This charter amendment is poorly conceived and poorly written. There are numerous United States, Missouri Constitutional and statutory issues contained in the amendment. Its provisions are not well-explained and, if allowed to stand, will surely cause elected officials, public employees and even ordinary citizens to run afoul of the law. The amendment is so vague that it may not be enforceable,” said attorney Sam Gladney.

“Our suit outlines more than 20 issues in the amendment and we did not include all that we found. Whether intentional or not, the amendment targets Organized Labor and any aldermen who wish to earn a living. The advocates did not follow the process required for a charter amendment and ended up offering voters a mish-mash of regulation which doesn’t provide the reform organizers promised.”


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