Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carnahan's Counsel in Pro-Union Stance Wolff Wants State Workers to Be Represented

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Carnahan's Counsel in Pro-Union Stance Wolff Wants State Workers to Be Represented

Article excerpt

Gov. Mel Carnahan's administration is mapping out a way to make state government a friendlier place for unions.

A draft memo by Mike Wolff, legal counsel to the governor, suggests that the state let union officials recruit members at work, participate in orientation sessions for new employees, take time off without pay to attend union functions and represent union members at grievance hearings.

"We want people to feel they're being dealt with fairly and in an atmosphere of cooperation, not an atmosphere of hostility," Wolff said. He stressed that the memo was preliminary and the governor has not approved it.

Carnahan, a Democrat, enjoyed support from organized labor when he won the general election in November 1992, but he wasn't labor's first choice. Most unions had lined up behind his rival in the Democratic primary - former St. Louis Mayor Vincent C. Schoemehl Jr. After Carnahan beat Schoemehl, labor support went to Carnahan.

Unions have had trouble getting a toehold in state government. Of about 58,000 employees in the executive branch, 22,000 work for agencies represented by certified bargaining units. But only about 3,000 of the eligible employees are dues-paying union members.

Union officials say Carnahan's Republican predecessors - former Gov. John Ashcroft and, to a lesser extent, former Gov. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond - discouraged union membership.

"For the last 10 or 12 years, we have been at each other's throats," said Vic Crawley, vice president of the Communications Workers of America. "We were denied an opportunity to talk to our people" at work.

"It had just become open warfare between the union and the state," said Crawley, whose union represents 5,755 Department of Social Services employees, many of them low-paid social workers. Six other unions represent workers in state mental hospitals, prisons, veterans homes, employment security offices and the highway department. …

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