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Missouri must collect union dues from prison workers, judge rules

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge has ordered Missouri to begin collecting union dues from prison workers, finding that an attempt by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to break the union is illegal.

In a scathing, 43-page decision, Circuit Judge Jon Beetem said it was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” that the state had stopped collecting the dues from members of the Missouri Corrections Officer Association, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.

It happened in 2019 as the state’s Office of Administration and the labor union were negotiating a new contract. The state argued at the time that the workers were no longer in a union since the contract had expired.

The move left the association with a massive funding shortfall, resulting in the closure of its headquarters, the loss of two staff and an end to the payout of hardship benefits to members.

Beetem said the state’s action was a violation of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and association. And he said it was illegal because the administration did not apply similar decisions to other labor unions representing state employees.

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