Client Alert: Missouri Supreme Court Strikes Down New Public Sector Collective Bargaining Rules

On June 1, 2021, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a law that imposed new restrictions on the state’s public sector labor organizations, including unions that represent teachers, custodians, and other school employees. An injunction preventing the enforcement of this law has been in place since March 2019, and now this recent Missouri Supreme Court decision will impact the way your school district participates in collective bargaining moving forward into next year.

House Bill 1413 Declared Void

House Bill 1413 became effective in August 2018 and imposed several new restraints on public employee labor organizations. A group of labor unions challenged this law (Missouri National Education Association, et al., v. Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, et. al.), and in March 2019, the St. Louis Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and the State Board of Mediation from enforcing HB 1413.

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court agreed with the St. Louis Circuit Court that HB 1413 violated principles of equal protection guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution by exempting public safety labor organizations from the new regulations while including other public employee organizations. Then, the Court held that, because the unconstitutional exemption for public safety labor organizations applied to every provision of the bill, HB 1413 was void in its entirety.

The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision is final and eliminates the significant changes HB 1413 made to public sector labor law in 2018. This decision impacts who your school district is allowed to bargain with, how union dues are permitted to be withheld from employee earnings, and the negotiable topics of bargaining.

Impact on School Districts

Does this decision affect who is the bargaining representative of our District’s employees?

Yes. Under HB 1413, unions were required to go through a certification and re-certification process on an ongoing basis and districts were prohibited from voluntarily recognizing exclusive union representation of bargaining units.

Following this week’s Supreme Court decision, HB 1413 is no longer valid and school districts can again voluntarily recognize labor organizations as the exclusive bargaining representative if the organization has been designated or selected by the majority of employees, even if they do not undergo a formal certification process before the State Board of Mediation. Your district will want to consult legal counsel to determine how, and if, voluntary recognition of a bargaining unit is appropriate.

Additionally, public labor organizations are no longer required to be recertified as the exclusive bargaining representative every three years and are no longer limited to only one election per year.

Our district was in the middle of the certification process for a new local union. Now what?

This decision makes it easier for public labor unions to organize. If a union organizing election is held, the outcome can be determined by a majority of those voting in the election, as opposed to the majority of all employees covered by the bargaining unit, which was required under HB 1413. Issues with the appropriateness of bargaining units are still resolved by the State Board of Mediation.

Does this decision impact how our school district withholds earnings from employee paychecks for union dues?

Yes. HB 1413 required public employees to receive annual, written authorization in order to withhold labor organization dues from employees’ paychecks. Public labor organizations are now able to withhold union dues and fees without receiving new authorization every year.

Do we need to change how we discuss or negotiate conditions of employment with our employees?

Under Missouri public labor law, once a labor organization is certified, both the union and the district must engage in bargaining by meeting, conferring, and discussing proposals related to salaries and conditions of employment.  Collective bargaining agreements are no longer required to contain the mandatory provisions specified in HB 1413, including a management clause and provisions informing employees of their right to refrain from engaging in or supporting the labor organization. Even though no longer required by law, it may be beneficial for your district to include these provisions. Your district should discuss with legal counsel the benefits of continuing to include these provisions in your collective bargaining agreements. The Supreme Court decision also voided the provision prohibiting binding mediation, binding interest arbitration, or interest arbitration. Missouri’s public labor law still does not grant a right to public employees to strike.

How does this decision impact a labor organization’s political activity?

HB 1413 required every public labor organization and many officers and employees to file an annual financial report with the Missouri Department of Labor. It also required unions to receive informed, written or electronic consent from employees before using any portion of dues or fees for political or campaign contributions. Since this provision is now void, it may be more difficult for school districts or union members to track union political activity.

How should our school district respond?

 This Missouri Supreme Court decision removes the restrictions on public sector collective bargaining that HB 1413 put in place. It is important for your district to discuss with legal counsel how to respond to the new flexibility granted to public labor organizations and how to avoid any pitfalls in any discussions with union groups going into next school year.

For more information about collective bargaining in your school district, please contact us.

Vince Reese     |     Natalie Hoernschemeyer     |     Grant Wiens

Our team of professionals welcomes the opportunity to serve your needs.

Share This