3 unions sue the state for the change of the merit system

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Three unions, representing a number of state employees, said in a lawsuit announced Wednesday that at least parts of the new state law – which made major changes to the 70-year-old merit system years for state employees – violate the provisions of the Missouri Constitution. .

The unions want the Cole County Circuit Court to block some or all of the new law.

Their target is Senate Bill 1007, which was sponsored by the Legislature last spring by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and was enacted on June 1 by the Governor of the era. Eric Greitens, the day he resigned and handed over the governorship to the former lieutenant. Governor Mike Parson.

“Former Governor Greitens may have thought he could reject the hard-earned rights of dedicated public service workers by stepping down,” AFSCME Council 61 Chairman Danny Homan said in a statement. hurry. “But the Missouri Constitution says otherwise.

“We fight this unfair and illegal attack on the rights of our members every step of the way, and we are confident that justice will prevail.”

Office of Administration spokeswoman Brittany Ruess said: “We have no comments at this time.”

The unions complaining are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 61; the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Local 6355; and Service Employees International Union, Local 1.

The defendants are the state government as a whole; the Office of Administration; and the departments of Social Services, Health and Seniors, Agriculture, Corrections, Mental Health, Natural Resources, Public Safety and Revenue.

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The lawsuit also involved the state Probation and Parole Board, which is part of the Correctional Service, and, within Public Safety, the Missouri Highway Patrol; Missouri Veterans Commission; adjutant general; and the National Emergency Management Agency.

In the 32-page lawsuit, the plaintiffs noted: “Senate Bill 1007 made drastic changes to the essential terms of employment of state employees by allegedly designating them as ‘at will’ employees. thereby subjecting them to dismissal for “no reason or reason”, with the exception of a small group of state employees who must benefit from the protections of the merit system under the terms of federal funding. “

Created in the mid-1940s, the system was, according to the Office of Administration’s webpage, “designed to protect employees against arbitrary actions, personal favoritism, and political coercion,” and more recently it covered approximately 56 % of all government employees, while the rest worked in departments and agencies other than Merit.

The new law subjects all state employees to the same regulations not based on merit. This includes removing the testing requirements to qualify for a job and revoking the appeals process for a merit system employee who has been sanctioned or fired.

The lawsuit argued that state officials and heads of various departments or agencies “unilaterally imposed (new) policies” when the new law came into effect, and these changes “are intended to ban employees from the State to negotiate, through their union, for a requirement that discipline be imposed only “for cause” – a key condition of employment that claimants have negotiated for decades, and which is reflected in the contracts between plaintiffs and defendants, and which protect employees against arbitrary dismissal for no reason or reason. “

The lawsuit said collective bargaining rights are protected by at least two sections of the Missouri Constitution.

In its bill of rights, the lawsuit said Article I, section 29, “obliges both public employers and unions to bargain in good faith, to enter into contracts securing the agreed terms and to refrain from negotiating in good faith. ‘make unilateral changes to important terms and conditions of employment. “

And Article I, section 13, the lawsuit says, “guarantees”[t]that no law affecting the obligation of contracts may be promulgated. ‘”

However, according to the lawsuit, changes made by state officials to employees’ working rules and conditions ignored contractual rights that had already been agreed – in contracts that are still in effect and in contracts that have expired that way. year, but included conditions that remained in force. effect until a new contract is negotiated.

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“The adoption of SB 1007 and the unilateral adoption by the defendants of emergency rules and policies, and their refusal to consider grievances, compromised the obligations in the (collective agreements) of the claimants to the detriment of claimants and workers. bargaining unit employees, ”the lawsuit mentioned.

“This degradation is substantial and these eliminations cannot be justified as being reasonable and necessary to serve an important public objective.”

The case was handed over to circuit judge Jon Beetem.

In the press release announcing the lawsuit, SEIU Local 1 Vice President Nancy Cross said: “SB 1007 is hurting thousands of working families in Missouri as well as all those who depend on state services.

“Members of SEIU Local 1 unite to reverse this unconstitutional attack by wealthy vested interests on the rights of workers in our state.”

And, CWA Local 6355 President Natashia Pickens added, “SB 1007 is an attack on our basic rights as workers to organize and our ability to bargain collectively.

“Public workers unions have the infrastructure to protect workers from unfair actions in the workplace and to fight for the essential services that members of our communities need to survive.


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