Educators reclaim bargaining rights

Educators reclaim bargaining rights

Missouri Supreme Court ruling confirms educators’ right to bargain collectively with their employers.

On May 29, the Missouri Supreme Court confirmed in its ruling on Independence NEA vs. Independence School District that public employees, including teachers and education support professionals, have a constitutional right to bargain collectively with their employers.

The ruling supports Article 1, Section 29 in the Missouri Constitution, which provides “That employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”

“This is great news for all public employees, but it is especially good news for Missouri’s educators and students,” says Missouri NEA President Greg Jung. “This decision, allowing all the experts a place at the table, provides a means for collaborative decision making combined with accountability. Ultimately, the result is better working and learning conditions in Missouri schools.”

The case began in 2003 when MNEA employee groups in the Independence School District filed a lawsuit against their school district, which unilaterally rescinded the employees’ contract. When the Trial Court, in 2006, decided in favor of the district based on Springfield vs. Clouse and Sumpter vs. City of Moberly, the Independence MNEA groups took their case to the Missouri Supreme Court.

“The perseverance of local leaders in Independence and the legal advocacy efforts of Missouri NEA have opened doors for a new era in Missouri’s public schools,” Jung says.

The ruling reverses a 1947 decision, Springfield vs. Clouse, whereby the Court ruled that the constitutional language did not apply to public employees, and the 1982 decision, Sumpter vs. City of Moberly, whereby the Court ruled that meet-and-confer agreements were not legally binding.

“This decision is also about fairness and honoring commitments,” says NEA President Reg Weaver. “Before this decision in Missouri, any agreements made between associations representing teachers and education support professionals and local school administrators could be determined null and void at any time by the district. It was unfair. We have to model good behavior for our students and set good examples. If we expect students to be fair and honor their commitments, then as adults, we should do the same."

In both the neighboring states of Iowa and Kansas, and 32 others, collective bargaining correlates with increased student achievement and a more stable workforce.

“MNEA believes that every child has the basic right to attend a great public school, and the court’s decision allows educators to have a voice in how that is accomplished,” Jung says.

For further information:
DeeAnn Aull
May 29, 2007

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