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Senate leader sends mass e-mail to state workers


August 22, 2001

State Senate President Peter Kinder on Tuesday sent an e-mail to thousands of state workers, promising to investigate complaints from any employees opposed to collective bargaining who have experienced retaliation "from the administration or its allies."

State law already allows government workers to join unions.

But Kinder's message is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle over Gov. Bob Holden's June 29 executive order that added binding arbitration for state employees who work in departments directly under the governor's control.

Jerry Nachtigal, Holden's press secretary, said late Tuesday Kinder "has blatantly misrepresented the governor's executive order."

In his e-mail, Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said he does "not support the forced unionization of state employees."

But, Nachtigal said: "No one is being forced to join a union. That is against state law and federal law, and has been for decades."

Kinder's e-mail focused on the possibility that state employees will have to pay service fees to unions, even if the employee chooses not to join one.

"Governor Holden has downplayed the likelihood of the imposition of the service fees as part of an overall strategy to delay implementation of these lugs until the intense opposition from state employees subsides," Kinder wrote.

But, since all state department heads are the governor's appointees, Kinder said, "There is little doubt that those political appointees will move forward immediately with implementation of the executive order and the union lug from employees' paychecks."

Nachtigal said: "No one is putting a mandatory lug on state employees."

Union representatives have said service fees must be negotiated with state officials in each department where union memberships exist.

But Kinder's e-mail said: "To obtain final approval, the unions will be calling union meetings around the State. While all state employees within each bargaining unit may attend these meetings, only (a simple majority of) those employees who are dues paying union members have the right to impose those 'service fees' on all non-union members."

Nachtigal said: "That is not true ... In the formation of bargaining units, that will be decided on a case-by-case basis."

Under Holden's order, the Legislature still has final say on pay raises and state law issues, and those employees in departments supervised by independent commissions -- such as Transportation, Conservation, Mental Health and education -- are not covered by the governor's order.

But, Nachtigal said, many of Kinder's e-mails were sent to employees in those departments not covered by the order.

"Clearly, this is an attempt to incite state employees, and it's full of untruths and distortions. It's an attempt to divert the focus from issues that matter to real working people," he said.

Kinder on Tuesday also issued a news release that said Holden's Internet Website on collective bargaining contains "inaccurate or incomplete information in response to state employees' questions on collective bargaining."

Kinder urged employees to contact his office by telephone or e-mail "if at anytime you feel that you or a co-worker have been retaliated against, harassed, intimidated or disciplined in any fashion related to (Holden's) order."

Kinder said any contact with his office will remain confidential.

The text of the e-mail was included with Kinder's Tuesday afternoon news release.

He told The Associated Press: "I want to communicate with state workers who recognize that this is a threat, and they can help us in our attempts to undue this unconstitutional act. There's no cost involved in sending out an e-mail."

Nachtigal said: "Can you imagine what the reaction would have been had Bob Holden sent an e-mail to thousands of state employees, laying out his executive order on collective bargaining?"

On the Net:

Office of Administration Q&A: www.oa.state.mo.us/pers/faqs_01-09.htm

Gov. Holden: www.gov.state.mo.us

Sen. Kinder: www.senate.state.mo.us/01info/members/mem27.htm

by BOB WATSON. Copyright © 2001 News Tribune Co.


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