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Judges temporarily halt ‘paycheck protection law,’ merit system overhaul


ST. LOUIS COUNTY — Two laws passed last year by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens have been halted from going into effect pending the outcome of ongoing litigation.

On Friday, a St. Louis County judge granted a preliminary injunction halting HB 1413 from taking effect and a Cole County judge preliminarily enjoined the state from implementing SB 1007. Both laws will now be stayed until a final judgment is entered on the lawsuit.

Both bills were part of a slew of legislation deemed anti-labor by unions that passed during the 2018 regular session. In August, seven public-sector unions filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB 1413. In October, three public-sector unions filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of  SB 1007.

Under HB 1413, any union-related deductions would require written annual authorization from the members for the purpose of being used for political purposes. The bill would exempt some public sector unions, such as police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel.

“In sum, a system like HB 1413 – in which very few conditions of employment are subject to meaningful bargaining, and the few conditions over which the parties can negotiate may be unilaterally abrogated by management – does not even give an illusion of collective bargaining,” St. Louis County Circuit Judge Joseph L. Walsh III stated in his ruling.

Missouri is one of only four states that expressly protects the right of collective bargaining in its state constitution.

Walsh’s decision suspends implementation of HB 1413. This means state, local, municipal jurisdictions, school districts, and other agencies that are responsible for implementing HB 1413 will be legally prohibited from doing so for as long as the law remains suspended by the preliminary injunction. The law will be stayed until a final decision is entered on the lawsuit.

“This is another misguided effort from an out-of-touch legislature that is hurting working people by attacking our right to bargain for better wages, safe work environments, and better learning conditions for our students,” said Lori Sammelmann, an Instructional Support Leader in the Ferguson-Florissant School District. “They want to make it harder to do our job, and they are picking fights to divert the attention away from teaching, education, and public services and eventually our students and taxpayers will suffer because of it.”

SB 1007, a overhaul of the merit system, brings the majority of state employees into the “at will” category. “At will” employees may be selected at the discretion of the appointing authority, serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority, and may be discharged – as the statute says – for no reason or any reason not prohibited by law. The merit reform law does not change whistleblower, sexual harassment, or discrimination protections for employees.

Cole County Judge Jon Beetem, issued a order preliminarily enjoining the state from interpreting and applying SB 1007 in a manner that “infringes on or is inconsistent with the right to collectively bargain.”