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Missouri judge rules against law stripping state union power

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri judge said the state unconstitutionally used a 2018 law to ignore union-negotiated protections for public employees and make unions “impotent.”

Cole County Presiding Judge Jon Beetem ruled that state departments wrongly cited the law to negate union-negotiated protections against unfair firings and discipline.

The law, proposed by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, a Republican, during his time as a state senator, made most state workers at-will employees. That meant departments fired and disciplined employees without reason or warning.

State agencies, citing the law, started ignoring grievances filed by workers who said they had been disciplined or fired unfairly. The state also refused to negotiate with unions on new rules that dealt with firing and discipline.

Unions sued, and Beetem ultimately agreed with them.

He wrote that state agencies “rendered the Unions impotent to enforce existing contracts or bargain any meaningful protections going forward.”

Beetem ordered the state to start processing the grievances it ignored and negotiate with unions over new contracts.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, which represented the state in the case, didn’t immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

But Beetem indicated in his ruling that he expected his decision to be appealed.

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