Core Issues

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES

The Missouri AFL-CIO has endeavored for decades to enact a collective bargaining law for public employees. We have done so believing that public employees deserve the same right to bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and conditions of employment in the workplace as private sector employees.

In 1947 the Missouri Supreme Court ruled public employees were not covered by the same right to collective bargaining as private sector employees are provided in the Missouri Constitution. In 2007 the court revisited the issue. It declared public employees do have the right to collective bargaining, just as employees in the private sector.

We shall, therefore, continue our effort to enact enabling legislation to provide the process of collective bargaining for public employees and their employers.

State Minimum Requirements Shall Provide:

• Exclusive bargaining certification which means a single organization represents employees in a public sector workplace which is determined by a majority of votes received.

• Good faith bargaining which requires that the parties to a contract (such as a collective bargaining agreement) regularly meet and discuss with a willingness to reach an accord on proposed new contract terms. It does not necessarily mean that any party is required to make a concession or agree to any proposal.

• A means to pay for services and representation either through organizational membership dues or a non-member fair share fee.

• Ratification of agreement (contract), a vote of all members of an organization to approve or disapprove of a proposed agreement (contract) between a public employer and the employees.

• Dispute resolution process which is mediation and/or arbitration as opposed to a strike or a lockout of employees by the employer. 2

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

In 1926 the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act was passed into law. It provided a no fault system of compensating and rehabilitating employees injured at work. In exchange, workers would no longer be able to sue their employers for damages due to workplace injuries.

Prior to the enactment of the Workers’ Compensation Law in Missouri, the cost of court proceedings was often cost prohibitive. Employers’ defense against claims by workers were successful at times, denying any recovery of damages for employees injured at work.

At the same time, claims by workers that were upheld in court were very expensive to employers; as a result, both employers and employees stood to gain from the enactment of the 1926 Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law.

Over the years there have been many changes to the initial workers’ compensation law, and historically business and labor representatives worked together with the legislature to address changes to current law.

In 2005, the Missouri Legislature drastically reduced eligibility for injured workers to be compensated for their injuries through the Missouri Workers’ Compensation System.

It is the mission of the Missouri AFL-CIO to restore the benefits lost during the 2005 Legislative session or reinstate a worker’s right to sue employers for damages not covered under the existing workers’ compensation law.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SECOND INJURY FUND

The Second Injury Fund was enacted in 1943. The purpose was to compensate persons whose pre-existing disabilities combined with their work-related disability would create a greater degree of disability. The goal was to encourage the employer to hire people with pre-existing disabilities by limiting the employer’s liability to only that which was caused by the work related injury. All persons injured at work with a pre-existing disability from any source had access to the Fund.

The Second Injury Fund is administered by the State Treasurer’s office and is defended by the Attorney General’s office.

The Second Injury Fund is funded by a surcharge assessed on insurance premiums or on self-insured employers. Between 1993 and August of 2005, this surcharge floated, based on a statutory formula that ranged between 3% and 4%. This surcharge was capped at 3% by SB-1 in 2005. At the time of the cap, the Second Injury Fund had a substantial surplus. Since the reduction of the surcharge, the Fund surplus has fallen and the solvency of the Fund must be addressed in the near future.

Recent proposed legislation has sought to eliminate total disability benefits once a person becomes eligible for full social security benefits.

Reducing benefits won’t help the Second Injury Fund remain solvent because it is unlawful to reduce benefits on existing claims. Eliminating total disability benefits to a person injured at work and unable to accumulate a 401k, pension, or savings, leaves him with only a diminished Social Security benefit to live on.

The Second Injury fund must once again be fully funded by employers. The Missouri AFL-CIO will work with the legislature to see that workers with a preexisting disability have an opportunity to seek gainful employment in the State of Missouri.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

• We support an unemployment law that would provide: • An indexed benefit equal to two-thirds of the state average weekly wage.

• An alternative base period for part-time and casual workers.

• Voluntary employment separations for:

• Avoidance of domestic violence.
• Caring for a disabled family member.
• Following a spouse whose employment has been moved to a different location.

• Training assistance benefits for dislocated workers, as well as those who have exhausted regular unemployment benefits, or who are in a state approved training program related to a high demand occupation.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

PREVAILING WAGE LAW

The purpose of the Prevailing Wage Law in Missouri is to protect communities and workers from economic disruption caused by competition from out of town contractors coming into an area and obtaining state contracts by underbidding local wage levels. Missouri passed its prevailing wage law in 1957; it was modeled after the federal Davis-Bacon Act enacted in 1931. The Act depends upon contractors reporting their hours of work for each occupational job title (i.e. bricklayer, carpenter, etc.) on an annual basis so as to have a true local prevailing wage.

Missouri Prevailing Wage is determined county by county on an annual basis. The Missouri Department of Labor (DOL) collects wage data during the year on construction projects throughout the state in every county in Missouri and determines the wage for workers in each craft based upon hours submitted.

Missouri Department of Labor (DOL) makes wage determinations based upon clearly defined Occupational Titles in the statute, RS.MO 290.

Missouri Prevailing Wage applies to all public works projects meaning all fixed works constructed for public use, or benefit or paid for wholly or in part out of public funds.

Missouri Prevailing Wage protects area contractors from being under bid by contractors in or outside of Missouri who use undocumented or misclassified workers.

Missouri Prevailing Wage upholds the tax base of local, county and state government by assuring contractors and subcontractors are paying local and state taxes, workers’ compensation and unemployment taxes.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENTS (PLA’s)

• What is a PLA?

A project labor agreement is an agreement by any political subdivision, municipality, county or state, to create a labor contract with its construction workforce, setting the terms of wages and fringe benefits for all occupations on a specific public construction project. It is a standalone agreement committed to the target project covering on site work only.

• Benefits of PLA’s

PLA’s are efficient due to standardized work rules and access to a primarily local pool of skilled workers that protects the public investment from unscrupulous contractors and their unqualified workers. PLA’s are particularly beneficial on large, complex projects where many different crafts are required to complete the project.

• PLA’s meet public needs

Project Labor Agreements meet the compelling needs of public projects with a strict completion schedule and budgetary constraints by utilizing contractors with a history of quality performance, few lost time injuries to employees and no work stoppages due to work disputes or strikes.

• PLA’s provide equal opportunity

Project Labor Agreements allow both union and non-union contractors to bid on the project. Both union and non-union employees may work on the project. Neither contractors nor workers are required to enter into collective bargaining agreements in order to work on the project. PLA’s are a proven success, recognized by the courts and endorsed by labor and management nationwide.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Opposes

WORKER MISCLASSIFICATION

What is misclassification?

Quite simply, it is tax and insurance fraud when employers call their workers “independent contractors” to avoid taxes, insurance costs and payroll deductions. They pay in lump sums and claim the workers will report annual earnings on IRS Form 1099, “Miscellaneous Income.”

Why do employers misclassify?

Illegal Profits: The 1099 tax scheme lets companies avoid payrolls, so they don’t pay Social Security and Medicare, workers’ compensation and unemployment taxes, or overtime, which are all required by law.

Is this crime or confusion?

This is an unchallenged crime. This is lawlessness, not confusion over IRS definitions.

Why does it matter?

• Unfair to honest businesses: Responsible, law-abiding employers are at a competitive disadvantage; many must choose between going out of business or breaking the law.

• Higher insurance costs: Hospitals are obligated to provide care for all, so workers’ compensation and health insurers must raise premiums to make up for uncovered workers.

Who should care?

Government officials at all levels, responsible employers, law enforcement, regulatory agencies, users of construction and other employment services, taxpayers and revenue officials, workers and their families, insurance companies, and medical providers.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Opposes

“RIGHT TO WORK”

“Right to Work” laws in 23 states prohibit workers and employers from negotiating union security clauses which ensure that all workers who receive economic benefits from union representation share the costs of maintaining the union. These laws allow non-members to receive the benefits of a union without sharing in the cost.

In Missouri and in 26 other states, workers and employers are free to negotiate union security clauses, which require all employees join the union within a specified period of time (generally 60 days) or forfeit their employment.

In 1988, the United States Supreme Court ruled (see Beck v CWA), that those employees could retain their employment by electing to be “dues objectors.” They would be required to pay only that portion of union dues that are germane to collective bargaining.

Unless a union security clause is negotiated and ratified by a majority of the employees, the place of employment is an “open shop”, where no one is required to join or pay union dues or fees to maintain their employment.

To set the record (and name) straight, “Right to Work” does not guarantee any rights. In fact, by weakening unions and collective bargaining, it destroys the best job security protection that exists: a union contract. Meanwhile, it allows workers to pay nothing and receive all the benefits of union membership. Federal labor law ruling of the National Labor Relations Board and decisions by the Unites States Supreme Court requires that unions must represent every eligible employee whether or not he or she pays dues. This forces unions to use their time and their dues paying members’ money to provide union benefits to free riders who are not willing to pay their fair share.

That’s why “Right to Work” is a Rip-Off!

The Missouri AFL-CIO Opposes

EMPLOYEE POLITICAL SILENCE

(Paycheck Deception) The argument made for this legislation – that dues of labor union members are involuntarily used for contributions to politicians or political causes is entirely false.

Unnecessary, Unconstitutional, and Costly: The initiative is unnecessary because union workers already have the legal right to opt out of supporting their union’s political activities. Courts have thrown out similar laws because they limit the rights of working people in politics. Employee Silence laws would force unions to secure annual written approval from every single member before spending any portion of his or her dues on political activities. The intention of paycheck deception legislation supporters is to stifle union lobbying, political education and get-out-the-vote drives.

Unfair: It would take away our right to use payroll deductions for political purposes – one of the best ways for us to pool our resources. Meanwhile, big money contributors, like Associated Industries of Missouri and CEO’s, can keep writing big checks.

No worker can be forced to fund a union’s PAC contributions. Like everyone else, unions are legally required to secure voluntary contributions for any union-sponsored Political Action Committees (PACs). Paycheck deductions already require voluntary, written authorization from any participating union member.

Employee Silence is, in fact, a right-wing effort to silence workers by depriving them of a voice in the political process. Working Americans simply cannot compete in the political arena with wealthy individuals and large corporations unless workers band together. The labor movement has led the fight to enact a minimum wage, the 40-hour work week and other worker protections that have benefited all working Americans. Employee Silence legislation is not an end in itself, it is a means to divert funding away from the labor community’s ongoing pro-worker efforts.

Employee Silence unfairly singles out unions, leaving corporations and right-wing associations unaffected. The red tape in obtaining and maintaining thousands of individual records to prove an individual’s consent, would apply only to unions and not to corporations or political associations such as Associated Industries and other employer groups.

The rights of union members are already fully protected by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Communications Workers of America vs. Beck that workers who do not join a union cannot be required to pay for union political activities over their objections. In a “union shop,” where non-members of a union pay for union services provided to them, those non-members can simply choose not to pay for political representation. When workers decide to join a union, they govern themselves as a democracy setting their own dues, electing their own leaders, and voting on where and how their money is spent. Therefore Employee Silence legislation is burdensome, wasteful and unnecessary.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Opposes

SCHOOL VOUCHERS

Since the early 1990’s, school vouchers and other schemes have used taxpayers’ money to pay for all or part of the costs of tuition to private schools. Despite some supporters’ claims, research shows that vouchers don’t improve outcomes for students who receive them or drive improvements in nearby neighborhood schools.

Vouchers divert funding from schools that serve the vast majority of students. They also become a distraction from the more serious discussions we need to have about school policies and practices that actually work. When politicians push vouchers, less attention is paid to reducing class sizes, offering high quality early childhood education, improving curriculum, supporting teachers, engaging parents, and building community support—all of which, evidence shows, can help students and schools.

Although much of the pro-voucher rhetoric uses the word “choice,” in practice it is the private schools that choose the kids, not the other way around. In areas where voucher programs exist, private school operators decide whether they want taxpayers to subsidize their schools. They also decide how many, if any, voucher students they will admit.

Vouchers are unpopular with the public, having been rejected—resoundingly and repeatedly—when they are on the ballot. To deceive the public, proponents have created “stealth voucher” programs with more appealing names; such as tuition tax credits or opportunity scholarships. But the outcome is the same—public money subsidizing private school tuition, less accountability for taxpayers’ dollars, a false hope for a handful of kids, and fewer resources for school reforms that actually work.

The Missouri AFL-CIO Supports

TEACHER TENURE

Tenure and seniority are terms that have increasingly polarized the discussion about how we ensure all our students have well-prepared, highly qualified teachers in their classrooms. The problem is that the discussion should not start with tenure and seniority but with how we put in place quality, transparent development and evaluation systems that ensure the best teachers are in the classrooms.

Right now, these evaluation systems are not in place. In their absence, tenure and seniority became objective ways of ensuring decisions about who would and would not stay in a classroom were not based upon subjective whims of a principal.

Tenure is not, and never was intended to be and should not be a guaranteed job for life. What tenure affords a teacher is a guarantee that he or she cannot lose a job for arbitrary or capricious reasons.

Seniority as it relates to public education has for many become a negative term. For veteran teachers it represents an unfair and limited view of what they have to offer our students and their fellow teachers.

In reality; tenure is simply due process that everyone, including teachers, should have a right to pursue. Teachers don’t earn that right until they have passed a probation period, which averages between four to five years of service.

Our collective focus should be on how to recruit, train and retain quality teachers and provide them continuous support so they can improve their craft throughout their careers.

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