The first round of contract talks stemming from Governor Bob Holden’s executive order giving many state workers the right to bargain collectively has begun in Jefferson City. 4,800 state mental health and Veterans’Home workers covered by AFSCME – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – are asking for higher pay and added benefits. Resa Dudley, the state’s Chief Negotiator, says some of the proposals are out of bounds. For instance, her negotiating team is unable to consider a demand for dental benefits. Paula Bentley, the union’s Chief Negotiator, doesn’t buy into the idea that some issues can’t be put on the table. She says the state can tell the health provider to include dental benefits. The first session was, more or less, a get-acquanited meeting. Bargaining is expected to begin in earnest at the next get-together on August 14th.