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New Missouri Labor Laws Impact Prevailing Wages and Public Employee Unions

09/06/2018

Two new labor laws have recently gone into effect in Missouri that represent a substantial change from existing statutes involving the state’s Prevailing Wage Act and Public Sector Labor Law.  The new statutes became effective on August 28th, the date on which all newly enacted legislation becomes state law in Missouri. 

Partial Repeal of Prevailing Wage Act

Missouri's prevailing wage statute dates back to 1959, and involves the rate of pay for employees working on public works projects, such as local jails, schools and courthouses. Historically, the state compared the number of hours worked in each county at the collectively bargained rate and the rate non-union contractors pay. The rate with the most hours worked each year prevailed and became the prevailing wage for each skill set and occupation in each county. 

However, under the new law, at least 1,000 hours of work in a given county and job category must be reported to the state for the previous year for the prevailing wage rate to apply. If that does not happen, a contracting minimum wage defined as 120% of a county's average wage will be paid to construction workers.

The new statute also exempts all public works projects costing less than $10,000 from competitive bid requirements. Finally, the change in the law does not affect construction projects worth less than $75,000.

New Regulations on Public Employee Unions

Missouri’s Public Sector Labor Law continues to allow public employees to bargain collectively. However, the payment of “dues, agency shop fees, or any other fees” to a union by public sector employees must be voluntary and previously authorized in writing or electronically. Furthermore, all union dues authorizations must be renewed annually.

Public-safety employees (such as police, firefighters, registered nurses and physicians) are excluded from the legislation, as are employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections. The new carve-out of public safety labor organizations and members will prevent State Board of Mediation certification elections for public sector firefighters, ambulance personnel, dispatchers, registered nurses, physicians, and police.

The new statute also includes provisions that protect public-sector employers in the event of a “budget shortfall.” Specifically, public-sector employers now have the right to unilaterally implement “necessary adjustments” to the economic terms of a collective bargaining agreement with a public sector union if (1) there is a budget shortfall, (2) the employer provides notice to the union of its intent to make the necessary adjustments and tries to bargain a voluntary resolution over the course of 30 days, and (3) the employer shows good cause for the necessary adjustment.

Since it became law on August 28th of this year, the new Public Sector Labor Law is now being challenged as unconstitutional by labor unions in a Missouri circuit court lawsuit.

For more information as to either of these new statutes, contact Jim Nowogrocki in the recently opened St. Louis office of Heyl Royster.