Today’s News & Commentary — September 14, 2021

Missouri public employees’ unions continue to struggle against the governor’s office for collective bargaining. In 2018, former Governor Eric Greitens signed a law that gave meager raises in exchange for changing the states’ merit hiring system, effectively reclassifying state workers into at-will employees. Since then, current Governor Mike Parson, who was Greitens’s lieutenant governor, has allowed every single public sector union contract to expire. Last May, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the merit law was unconstitutional and ordered the state to resume good faith bargaining with state unions and for state agencies to begin processing filed grievances that have not been answered during Governor Parson’s term. Now, Governor Parson’s administration has filed an appeal contesting the decision, further delaying any union negotiations. The state employees are principally represented by AFSCME, CWA Local 6355, and SEIU Local 1. Missouri state employees remain some of the lowest paid state employees in the nation, with noncompetitive pay forcing agencies to shut down facilities and services due to staffing problems.

In the wake of President Biden’s upcoming vaccine mandate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to fine local government employers $5,000 per vaccination they enforce. If DeSantis carried through with the threat, it would be the state Department of Health’s responsibility to enforce the rule beginning on September 16. However, the threat has not stopped some local governments in Florida from already imposing vaccine mandates for their employees. Firefighters in Pembroke Pines, City Hall workers in Weston, new applicants for city staff positions in Oakland Park, Plantation police and city employees, Delray Beach employees, Orange County employees, and some others are all currently subject to vaccine mandates. While DeSantis’s threat currently only applies to public employees, the governor’s office has stated that it is exploring ways to pressure private businesses not to impose mandates as well.

California’s state investigations into Activision Blizzard Inc. and Riot Games Inc. are being viewed as a referendum on the effectiveness of the state’s laws regarding nondisclosure agreements. Activision and Riot Games have been accused of using NDA agreements to hinder sexual harassment and discrimination investigations. California law prohibits overly broad gag orders, settlements, and other agreements from preventing workplace victims from speaking about workplace abuses, discrimination, and harassment claims. The state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing believes that Activision Blizzard is using NDAs with severe penalties to mask a “frat boy” office culture. Meanwhile, the DFEH is attempting to compel Riot Games to produce copies of private NDA settlements with over 100 women who have alleged unequal pay or sexual harassment. The cases stand out for being unusually aggressive enforcement actions of the state’s NDA laws.

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