(The Center Square) — A ruling declaring a public sector collective bargaining law adopted by Missouri lawmakers in 2018 unconstitutional is not supported by evidence, state attorneys argued Monday before the Missouri Supreme Court.
Missouri Solicitor General D. John Sauer told the state’s highest court during 36 minutes of oral arguments in a remote hearing that St. Louis County Judge Joseph Walsh’s January decision to “void” House Bill 1413 as an unconstitutional infringement of public workers’ collective bargaining rights erred in numerous ways.
For instance, Sauer argued, no provision within HB 1413 violates public employees’ rights to bargain collectively.
“There’s unrefuted, unrebutted evidence in the summary judgment record in this case that the plaintiffs submitted no evidence at all to refute … how the various provisions of House Bill 1413 do protect in advance employees’ ability to select representatives of their own choosing,” he said.
Signed into law by former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens shortly before he resigned in 2018, HB 1413, the so-called “paycheck protection” bill, was sponsored by Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, who argued it would “hold unions accountable to members.”
A similar measure adopted by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2016 was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
Under HB 1413, all unionized government employees — other than first-responders and law enforcement officers — must opt-in before unions can withdraw dues from their paychecks.
Other provisions require public union recertification elections include all eligible employees, not just union members, with non-votes counted as “no” votes.
State attorneys argue the opt-in and annual recertification are necessary because, with a high turnover rate among state workers, half the state’s union-eligible workers have noted voted for union representation in more than three years.
“Over time, turnover creates situations where very few employees have ever expressed a democratic preference for the union’s representation,” the state said in its written brief. “Periodic recertification elections directly advance critical interests in promoting democratic representation and accountability in union representation.”
Lawmakers exempted public safety unions from the law top avoid labor unrest among police or fire department employees.
“The Legislature acted very reasonably,” Sauer said.
Jason Walta, an attorney with the National Education Association (NEA), one of seven plaintiffs in the suit, urged the court to uphold Walsh’s ruling and preliminary injunction, which prevents state, local, municipal jurisdictions, school districts and other agencies from legally implementing HB 1413.
Wall said HB 1413 imposes “discriminatory burdens” on nonpublic safety unions, infringes on political speech and the right to engage in peaceful informational picketing.
Under the bill, public sector union rules are “rigged” against rank-and-file workers, Walta, said, purposely sabotaging the efficacy of public-sector unions by allowing workers to decline to allow the union to spend part of its dues for political purposes.
The law creates “Draconian restrictions on collective bargaining,” he said. “All of these restrictions on collective bargaining are … all applied in a discriminatory manner.”
“I think that the trial court wrote a very thoughtful and excellent decision in this matter. He (Walsh) considered the issues very carefully, and I think that it’s a decision that’s worthy of this court’s affirmance,” Walta concluded.
There is no timetable for when the Supreme Court will issue its ruling.