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Friday, March 15, 2019

Court Enjoins Enforcement of Public Sector Collective Bargaining Law

In Missouri NEA et al. v. Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations et al., Case No. 18SL-CC03310 (“Litigation”) the NEA and six other labor organizations (Plaintiffs) sued the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (Department), the State Board of Mediation (“SBM”), Ferguson-Florissant and Hazelwood School Districts and various other public bodies (“Defendants”). On March 8, 2019, the Circuit Court of St. Louis County granted Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction preventing the Defendants from “…administering or enforcing any provision of HB 1413” (the collective bargaining law) that was effective August 28, 2018. Please click here to review the Order.

The Court held that Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims that the law is unconstitutional because: (1) it violates Plaintiffs’ rights to organize and bargain collectively under Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution; (2) it violates Plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection under the law under Article I, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution; and, (3) it violates Plaintiffs’ free speech rights under Article I, Sections 8 and 9 of the Missouri Constitution. Technically, the ruling is not binding on any school district that is not a party to the Litigation.

The Order does not set a date for a hearing on a permanent injunction. The parties may agree that the preliminary injunction should be made permanent so that the case can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Unless the Circuit Court changes its ruling or the Missouri Supreme Court reverses, modifies or sets aside this Order, HB 1413 likely should not be enforced by the Department or the SBM. Pending election petitions pursuant to that law should not be processed by the SBM. SBM has stated that elections will be suspended or postponed until the courts resolve the dispute. Our view is that the SBM likely should not certify results of elections held but not certified because it technically has been enjoined from doing so.

Some may question whether the Districts who were not parties to the Litigation can bargain with organizations that have not been certified, and if so, should those Districts insist on the substantive labor agreement/MOU provisions required by HB 1413. An NEA attorney informed us that NEA’s position is that HB 1413 is suspended in its entirety and that Districts should bargain under the prior law. The Missouri Attorney General’s office may also take that position. Without predicting how the Supreme Court may rule if the case is appealed, as a practical matter, we believe that Districts probably should bargain with organizations as they have in the past. Districts arguably could insist on the HB 1413 substantive provisions on the ground that HB 1413 still applies to them. We will be pleased to discuss bargaining strategies related to those provisions upon request.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation and should not be relied on as such.  Please contact one of our school lawyers if you have any questions.  

This update was prepared by Charles S. Elbert and Erin M. Leach.


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