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Collective Bargaining Costs Disputed

March 01, 1999
By: David Grebe
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 166, SB 156, SB 185, Missouri State Teachers Association

JEFFERSON CITY - Karl Marx once called for workers of the world to unite - but Missouri teachers are going separate ways.

Heated debate started Monday about the cost of unionizing state workers. Pro-union lawmakers are trying to salvage the bill in the face of opposition from the Missouri State Teacher's Association and some local governments.

Sparing teacher's groups came up with wildly disparate estimates of the cost of collective bargaining.

The MSTA estimates the annual cost of the collective bargaining agreement to be $60 million for school districts alone. The Missouri National Education Association says it's closer to $600,000.

While the Missouri National Education Association supports collective bargaining - the Missouri State Teacher's Association remains opposed. The MSTA represents the majority of teachers in the Columbia Public Schools.

The AFL-CIO said the cost for state employees is $640,000. But the Municipal League says $60 million - the estimate lawmakers had been working from - may well be too low.

"Proponents of the bill are trying to lower the numbers," said Rod Downey, spokesman for the MSTA. "We think they're still way too low."

According to the MSTA, lawmakers are also considering exempting teachers from collective bargaining - and exempting third and fourth class counties.

"We'd be opposed to that," said Herb Johnson, secretary-treasure of the the Missouri AFL-CIO. Johnson dismissed the MSTA's claim to represent the true will of Missouri teachers.

"They're really a company union - they're not a teacher's organization," he said.

The MSTA said they're opposed to collective bargaining because they're not a union - and the focus should be on children.

Bob Carico, who represents the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees, said collective bargaining opponents are tacking on costs that aren't really mandated in the bill.

Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, who sponsored the bill, conceded that the costs might be higher than union estimates. "I didn't go into this with blinders on - I knew this was going to cost money," he said.

"It's obvious this bill is going to cost a lot," said Bruce Moe, spokesman for the MSTA. "And most of it is going to lawyers."

The Joint Research Committee amended the fiscal note to read $46 million in the first year - but said annual costs would rise to $64 million in the third year.