Independence Lawsuit

Oral Arguments

presented Feb. 21, 2007.
(mp3, 15Mb, 14 min 53 sec)


Independence National Education Association represented by MNEA

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Independence School District

Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and Missouri Council of School Administrators (MCSA)

Independence Lawsuit reaches the Missouri Supreme Court


The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Independence employee relations lawsuit on Feb. 21, 2007. This lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of multiple Missouri NEA member employee groups in Independence and has the potential to affect all MNEA members. A final decision is expected no later than June 30, 2007.

What caused the employees to file a lawsuit?
For more than 20 years, three groups of MNEA members with different job responsibilities in the Independence School District (teachers, custodians, bus drivers and other education support personnel) met and conferred with the board of education on teaching, learning and working condition issues. During these years, the board and the employee groups jointly signed memorandums of understanding and agreed on board policy. In April of 2002, the local board of education unilaterally discarded all signed agreements including the representation process of the MNEA member groups.

What do the employee groups hope to accomplish with their lawsuit?
This important employee relations lawsuit asks the Missouri Supreme Court to overrule two previous Supreme Court Decisions:


  1. Sumpter vs. City of Moberly – 1982, which allows public employers (like school districts) to suddenly discard a written agreement with employees.
  2. City of Springfield v. Clouse – 1947, which denies “public” employees their constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively.

How has the constitutional right of public employees been denied?
For 62 years, employees in Missouri have had a constitutionally guaranteed right to collective bargaining. Article I, Section 29 states: “In order to assert our rights, acknowledge our duties, and proclaim the principles on which our government is founded, we declare:….[t]hat employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively.” The constitution does not distinguish between public and private employees.

During the constitutional debate in 1945, proposals to exclude public employees failed. Only two years later, in l947, a Supreme Court decided to exclude public employees from the plain language of the constitution.

How does the outcome of this lawsuit affect MNEA members across the state?
A favorable decision by the Supreme Court would clear the way for public employees to exercise their constitutional right to have a legitimate voice at the decision-making table. The process for bringing the public school employee voice to the table would be determined by the Missouri legislature. MNEA believes that the experts, teachers and other school employees, know what students need. These experts know how to attract and retain quality employees. Attracting and retaining quality school employees that meet students’ needs is key to providing a great public school for every child.

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