Missouri Supreme Court upholds public employees’ right to picket
Jefferson City – The Missouri Supreme Count derailed yet another attempt by the Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature to destroy public employee unions’ efforts to best serve their members.
In a unanimous ruling last week, the Court struck down part of a 2018 law to restrict public employees right to picket. The Republicans attempted to force public employee unions to put a mandatory “no picketing” clause in contacts.
The court ruled this violated public employees’ freedom of speech. Previous court rulings have made the legal distinction that public employees speech “on matters of public concern” can only be restricted if it would interfere with the delivery of public services.
The issue in question dealt with a dispatcher in the Jackson County Sheriff’s office, members of CWA Local 6360. The union’s contact, which had expired, did not prohibit picketing. While talks were underway, the sheriffs, on their own time, picketed to call attention to their low pay concerns.
Judge Zel Fischer, who wrote the Court’s opinion, said this was an example of constitutionally protected speech by public employees. This was no strike that impacted public services, which public employees are prohibited from doing, but simply a way to let the public know of their plight.
Part of that 2018 law also required public employee unions to annually to have their members opt in to pay dues to support the union’s efforts on their behalf. A St. Louis County Circuit Court struck down that entire law this past January.
The Parson administration, continuing its anti-union efforts, is appealing that ruling protecting the rights of public employees unions to be able to financially survive to the Missouri Supreme Court.