Supreme Court Decision

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Supreme Court Decision Upholds State Constitution, Helps Strengthen Schools

Statement from Missouri NEA President Greg Jung—5th grade teacher on leave from Ritenour School District.

On Tuesday, May 29, 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court announced that it has upheld the section of the state constitution that gives public employees—like teachers, fire fighters and first responders—collective bargaining rights with their employers.

Missouri NEA believes that every child in the state has the basic right to attend a great public school. The Court’s decision allows educators to have a direct impact on how that is accomplished.

This historic ruling supports Article 1, Section 29, which provides “That employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” The ruling reverses a 1947 decision, Springfield vs. Clouse, whereby the Court ruled that the law excluded public employees, including teachers.

This ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by multiple MNEA member employee groups in 2003. For more than 20 years, teachers, custodians, bus drivers and other education support professionals in Independence 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. In filing the lawsuit, MNEA asserted that the Missouri constitution does not distinguish between public and private employees, and that if an employer enters an agreement with an employee, the agreement should be binding.

In its decision, the Missouri Supreme Court has reaffirmed that Missouri teachers, and all public employees, should be guaranteed the same constitutional rights as other employees in the state.

This Court ruling clears the way for public employees to exercise their constitutional right to have a legitimate voice at the decision-making table.

MNEA believes that teachers, working together with local school boards and administrators, are the best qualified for setting educational priorities and solving difficult educational problems.

We also believe that if public employees are allowed to work together with their employers for better working conditions, they will be happier and more productive. This ultimately leads to better schools, better police departments, and better fire departments, all of which will improve our communities.

The process for bringing the public school employee voice to the table would be determined by the Missouri legislature. We call upon them to act quickly to restore to 120,000 public employees, including 67,000 teachers, the rights guaranteed to them in the Missouri constitution.

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