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Democratic No-show in Collective Bargaining Committee Angers GOP

September 20, 2001
By: Nicholas Rummell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - GOP senators voiced anger Thurdsay at the failure of Democrats to attend the second consecutive meeting of the Senate's special committee investigating the governor's order letting unions seek fees from non-union state workers.

Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California, called Democrats "puppets on a string for the governor" and said that if they were interested in the union issue, they would have shown up.

The "stonewalling" by Democrats and the administration, as it was called, is merely one of the tactics lambasted by Republicans on the issue of unions.

The governor's use of executive order in June to conclude this issue has similarly enraged several Republicans, among them Sen. John Russell, who chairs the committee.

"If I ever saw a rigged up payoff, it was in that executive order," Russell told committee members. "It makes me sick to think that this administration...has stooped to such low tactics."

Russell went on to complain that the administration was under the thumb of unions, as it had received campaign contributions from them, and therefore the positions of the unions were unfairly weighted in the proceedings.

"We cannot trust this governor," he said.

Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, agreed that Gibson would be a useful witness for the committee on procedural matters and questions of politics on collective bargaining, but did not believe that the administration was not making itself known on the issue.

Goode was interviewed after the committee hearing. Although appointed to the committee by the Senate's GOP president pro tem, Goode -- like other Democrats -- has not attended committee sessions.

Administrative Commissioner Michael Hartmann's testimony Thursday was the first administration officials to testify to the committee.

Hartmann said that it was the administration's policy that employees be given a choice on collective bargaining issues.

Rohrbach charged that Hartmann's testimony was amazingly uninformed on what should have been obvious areas, and said that investigating the issue after the executive order is backwards.

"We're putting the cart before the horse on this issue," he said.

Most of the committee's recent debate has concerned service fees, which would require nonunion members to pay "their fair share" of dues to the unions in their departments.

However, of the state departments which might have collective bargaining units, only 17 percent are in a union, according to data from the Division of Personal.

One of the biggest examples of the gap between union and nonunion members is in the Corrections Department, where only 900 out of 4,500 employees are union.

By the executive order, if 451 of those employees voted for service fees, it could be applied to all employees in that department, according to Hartmann's testimony.