|Teacher Union Bargaining Cases Move Forward|
|By Audrey Spalding|
|Tuesday, October 27, 2009|
A district affiliate of the majority state teacher union, the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA), has appealed a state judge's ruling that public school teachers can choose whether to be represented by one union, several, or none. Most public school districts in the state negotiate with only one teachers' union, but a select few, such as the Springfield, Brentwood, and Bayless school districts, allow non-exclusive teacher–school district negotiations.
The issue of teacher union representation came to a head at the Springfield School District when the Springfield National Education Association (SNEA) filed suit on June 2.
The SNEA argued against a district policy that allowed teachers to vote first for either single, multiple, or no representation, and then later to vote on which union (or unions) would represent them in negotiations with the school district. In court, Sally Barker, an attorney for the SNEA, argued that such a voting system represented a "false choice," and that collective representation was traditionally understood to be done by a single union.
The Greene County Circuit Court allowed the district policy. In his ruling, Judge Michael Cordonnier wrote that the Article I, Section 29, of the Missouri Constitution provides for multiple representation with the following language: "That employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing."
“The word ‘representatives’ in Section 29 is unambiguous, plural, and must be read to include the possibility of more than one representative,” Cordonnier wrote.
On Oct. 20, the SNEA filed a notice of appeal with the Southern District Court of Appeals. The appeal itself hasn't been filed with the court, said Sandra Skinner, the court clerk. The filing could come as late as the end of January, she said.
Another teacher union lawsuit, this one on the behalf of the Bayless National Education Association (BNEA), has been scheduled for trial on Dec. 11 at the Saint Louis County circuit court. According to court documents, Barker will be representing the BNEA.
The BNEA's suit alleges that the school district has violated Article 1, section 29, of the Missouri Constitution by refusing to recognize the BNEA as the exclusive bargaining representative of the district's teachers, or agreeing to let teachers vote on the matter.
Under the district's policy adopted in Feb. 2009, "Bayless Working Together," teachers in each school building nominate and vote for two representatives and one alternate, regardless of union affiliation. In its response to the lawsuit, the district wrote that it prefers to keep the current collective bargaining arrangement in place.
At trial, Barker will likely argue that the district's bargaining policy isn't a legitimate form of collective bargaining and violates the state constitution.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of the BNEA, Barker wrote that the district's collective bargaining policies "violate Plantiff's right to engage in collective bargaining within the meaning of Article I, Section 29."