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Labor organizations challenge ‘paycheck protection’ in St. Louis County court

ST. LOUIS COUNTY  — Several labor organizations are challenging the constitutionality of sweeping public sector union overhaul bill that was dubbed “paycheck protection” by the Republican-held Missouri General Assembly.

Seven public sector unions are alleging that the law set to go into effect would place undue constraints on an employee’s right to collective bargaining and speech. The lawsuit filed in St. Louis County seeks to block the changes made.

“This is another attempt by legislators backed by corporate interests to attack our right to speak up about student needs, class-size, wages and benefits,” said Lori Sammelmann, an instructional coach in the Ferguson-Florissant school district.

At issue is House Bill 1413 which was passed by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens. Among the key provisions, the bill requires that unions recertify every three years, member have to opt-in to the union every year, and that unions must get special permission to use any funds for political purposes.

Under the new law, public employees would be prohibited from participating in a demonstration related to work.

The bill did not include every employee in the public sector. Exempt from the bill are emergency medical personnel, firefighters, nurses and physicians, dispatchers, and law enforcement officials.

The lawsuit claims the bills violates the Constitution by “arbitrarily and impermissibly distinguishing between favored ‘public safety labor organizations’ and penalized unions and by specifically targeting penalized unions for severe restrictions and burdensome and intrusive requirements while exempting ‘public safety labor organizations’ from all of the same.”

Also alleged by the lawsuit are several more violations of sections of the Missouri Constitution. Violations of equal protection, the right to organize and collectively bargain, and the right to freedom of speech and association are among the five counts alleged in the petition.

“The deprivation of these core constitutional rights, even momentarily, is an irreparable injury,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit is seeking preliminary injunctive and ancillary relief.

“Missouri’s government union reform law will go a long way to restoring workplace democracy for government union workers in Missouri,” said Gregg Keller, chairman of Missouri Century Foundation, a leading advocate for government union reform.  “The law shifts power from union leaders back to union members by requiring regular recertification elections. This law is also a win for taxpayers since government unions will be required to disclose the same financial information as private sector unions, and give taxpayers greater access to the collective bargaining process. Unions members and taxpayers should demand Missouri’s government unions end this lawsuit which would block the historic accountability and transparency reforms passed earlier this year.”

The labor organizations that filed the suit are: The Missouri National Education Association, Ferguson-Florissant National Education Association, Hazelwood Association of Support Personnel, Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 42, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 610, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 148, and Service Employees International Union Local 1.

They have named the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the Office of Administration, the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Veterans Commission and several other entities including St. Louis Community College.