Franklin County Government Center

Franklin County commissioners recently approved a tentative agreement with a labor union that represents highway department employees.

County Counselor Mark Piontek told commissioners the county has reached the point where more negotiations with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 148 won’t get anywhere, prompting the “last, best, final” offer.

“At this point, we’ve essentially reached an impasse,” Piontek told commissioners at a Tuesday meeting. “We have negotiated for a considerable period of time, and we have gotten to the point where there are a couple of issues that we just can’t come to agreement on.”

The county first started negotiating with Local 148 on a new collective bargaining agreement in July 2019, according to the county’s agenda packet for Tuesday’s meeting. But the county stopped negotiations because the union did not recertify as required by 2018’s state House Bill 1413, which placed restrictions on many public sector unions, though it exempted public safety unions.

But that law was declared unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court in June 2021, with the parties restarting negotiations the next month. County representatives met with union officials four times between July 19 and Sept. 28, for a total of 17 hours, according to the county.

After the most recent session, the county said it asked the union for a counter-proposal on outstanding issues, even though an extension of the agreement expired Sept. 30.

On Oct. 13, the county said it sent the union its “last, best, final” offer and told the union it would implement the offer Nov. 1.

The county offered no additional pay raise for employees in the operating engineers union beyond what it has given all employees.

The county heard back from the union Monday, Oct. 25, the day before commissioners voted to approve the agreement, though the county said the proposal failed to address all outstanding issues or give concrete responses to some of the county’s provisions.

The county accepted some of what Local 148 asked for and authorized Piontek to complete the agreement, which would run Nov. 1, 2021, to Oct. 31, 2024.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the tentative contract, which Piontek said can be changed later.

“I guess the somewhat long, short answer is, ‘Yes, we’re going to propose this as our contract, but if the parties indicate there is a possibility of additional movement, we can always sit down and go over it again,’ ” he said.

Local 148 representatives could not be reached for comment.

Negotiations have long been contentious. The county, citing the now-defunct state law, said the 51 highway department employees who belonged to Local 148 must have a county-conducted election to determine who represents them, according to Missourian archives. The union responded by suing the county in October 2019, saying the county was violating the constitutional rights of employees represented by Local 148 by refusing to recognize or bargain with the union unless an election was held.