Missouri judge further delays union election results

Monday, September 14, 2009 | 3:53 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri judge on Monday extended an order blocking the certification of a union election for in-home care providers while he considers a lawsuit alleging election flaws.

A majority of personal care attendants voted in favor of representation by the newly formed Missouri Home Care Union. But those results have been on hold for two months because of a lawsuit by Integra Healthcare Inc. alleging errors in the election process.

A temporary restraining order was to expire Monday, but it was extended indefinitely by Cole County Senior Judge Byron Kinder as he weighs whether the lawsuit should go forward.

An attorney for the Missouri Home Care Union argued Monday in court that Integra has no legal grounds to challenge the unionization vote, and its lawsuit should be dismissed.

"They don't like the result" of the election, said union attorney Art Martin of St. Louis. "This is an attempt to end-run the process."

Integra attorney Lowell Pearson countered that the state committed 17 errors in the election process and said his client should have standing to sue as a taxpayer.

"We had a one-sided process where nobody — nobody — was providing any check and balance on the system," Pearson said.

The union is seeking to represent about 13,000 workers who help people living in their own homes perform daily activities such as bathing, dressing, cooking and cleaning. The workers are paid through the state's Medicaid program.

A ballot measure approved in November gave the newly created Missouri Quality Homecare Council authority to negotiate with the workers over wages and benefits. The Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees jointly created the Missouri Home Care Union and petitioned to represent the workers.

The union representation election was conducted by the State Board of Mediation.

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