Lawyers on Tuesday argued to the Missouri Supreme Court over whether new restrictions on public unions can take effect, including bans on picketing and strikes.

COLUMBIA — Lawyers on Tuesday argued to the Missouri Supreme Court over whether new restrictions on public unions can take effect, including bans on picketing and strikes. 

At issue is a 2018 law requiring public unions to get annual permission to deduct dues from workers' paychecks and include bans on striking in their contracts. Public safety unions, such as police unions, would be exempt. 

The law, passed by Missouri's Republican-led Legislature, also would mandate that public employee labor unions hold an election every three years on whether workers want to continue their representation. The law would require a majority of workers, not just a majority of the workers who voted, to approve unions.

Unions sued, and a lower court judge last year blocked the law from taking effect. Lawyers for the state appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court. 

Union attorney Jason Walta told Supreme Court judges that with all the restrictions on public unions, the law "does not even give the illusion of collective bargaining."

But Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer Tuesday argued that the law is constitutional. He said public workers still have the right to band together to negotiate under the law, even if the regulations put limits on what can be negotiated. 

He added that it was reasonable for lawmakers to exempt public safety workers to avoid possible protests "life-saving industries"

Judges didn't indicate when they might rule on the law.