Wednesday, May 30, 2007

MSTA press release on the Collective Bargaining Decision

Court ruling: Same game, new rules

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday strengthens the rights of school employees to negotiate employment terms with school districts — and requires that contracts be honored.

The Independence-NEA v. Independence School District decision came in response to a suit brought by the district’s transportation employees and educational support personnel after the district ignored a longstanding agreement and unilaterally decided to move to a "collaborative team policy" that recognized both NEA and MSTA members.

In its decision Tuesday, the Court overruled earlier decisions and wrote that once the Independence district entered into an agreement, the district could not unilaterally change it.

MSTA Executive Director Kent King said the decision is relatively narrow in scope and leaves many issues that the General Assembly must address. One thing is sure, though, he says: "Districts will be forced to interact with all educators, and MSTA will be there to represent them, just as it has always been."

King added that the ruling confirms rights for teachers that MSTA has always supported: "Look at how MSTA’s resolutions speak to these issues. We believe districts should listen to teachers, and if school boards and administrators have agreed to something with their employees, that agreement should be binding."

The 1945 Missouri Constitution states "employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing." In 1947, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that provision only applied to private-sector employees. The Supreme Court's 5-2 ruling, announced Tuesday, overturns that decision. The court also unanimously overturned a 1982 decision that allowed governments to negate agreements made with unions.

The court’s ruling did not describe the negotiating process for employee groups and employers. There was no mention of agency fee or exclusive representation. Instead, the opinion relies on the current public-sector collective bargaining statute. The legislature will be responsible for determining the exact method and parameters of the process. The court does, however, make it clear that if a district enters into an agreement with an employee association or union, the district must abide by the terms of that agreement.

The ruling also makes it clear that a public employer is not required to agree to any proposals. It suggests that districts are required to go through a process and at the conclusion of the process can determine to accept or reject the proposal.

How the ruling may change the way MSTA operates will unfold over time. The association will continue to protect and represent its members, providing the services that are important to them.

"MSTA has been around for more than 150 years," King says, "and when the playing field changes, as everything does over time, we adapt. Through the years, though, our basic goal remains the same: To take care of our members so that they can take care of students."

From the MSTA website.

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