The Case Heads to the Missouri Supreme Court

A St. Louis County court has declared unconstitutional recent changes to the Missouri Public Sector Labor Law, the law that governs collective bargaining between school districts and their employees.

In 2018, House Bill 1413 was passed and signed into law by then Governor Greitens on his last day in office. The bill was notably anti-labor and imposed strict reporting requirements on labor organizations and set rules for school districts on the process for recognizing unions (secret ballot elections where a majority of the bargaining unit must vote), the negotiation process, and included mandates for what must be in the collective bargaining agreement. Notably, “public safety labor organizations” were excluded from these strict new rules. Several unions representing governmental employees immediately sued, including the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA).

The court found that the new law violated employees’ constitutional right to select representatives and deprived unions of the opportunity for meaningful bargaining. The court also found that the law violated constitutional rights of free speech, freedom to associate, and the state’s equal protection clause because there was no rational basis to distinguish unions from public safety labor organizations. The case will now be appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, which is not likely to rule on the issue until next school year.

Notably, this decision comes in the middle of the traditional negotiation season for public school districts and will no doubt come up as unions will encourage districts not to follow the law given the court order. The problem is that the court order only applies to the entities included in the lawsuit at this time, not all school districts. MSBA encourages districts that enter into collectively bargained agreements with employee unions to contact the district’s private attorney before deciding to ignore the law.

For more information on MNEA v. Mo. Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations, contact the School Laws Department at (800) 221-6722.