A St. Louis-area court issued an order at the end of last week that may affect how you and your District participate in collective bargaining. Below is an overview of what the Court Order does and doesn’t do, along with some guiding information on what your District needs to consider moving forward.
In June 2018, then-Governor Eric Greitens signed HB 1413 into law and substantially overhauled Missouri’s public-sector labor relations. Broadly speaking, the new law affected who could bargain on behalf of public employees. For instance, the law expanded the definition of a public labor organization and revised the certification and re-certification process before the Missouri State Board of Mediation for exclusive bargaining representatives. Additionally, the law created new filing and record-keeping requirements for labor organizations and changed how union dues are collected from paychecks.
The Circuit Court Case
Shortly after HB 1413 went into effect at the end of August 2018, seven different labor unions filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County Circuit Court related to HB 1413 (Missouri National Education Association, et al v. Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, et al). The unions brought the legal action against several government entities who are responsible for enforcing provisions of HB 1413, including Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations and the State Board of Mediation. In the case, the labor unions questioned the constitutionality of HB 1413 and sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin the DOL and State Board of Mediation from enforcing HB 1413. On March 8, 2019, the Court issued the requested Preliminary Injunction, preventing enforcement of HB 1413 until the Court reaches a final decision on the overall constitutionality of the new law.
What It Means for School Districts
As the St. Louis County Court hears arguments and deliberates on the pending case over the next several months, here are answers to a few questions you may be asking:
What does a preliminary decision from a St. Louis County Court have to do with my District?
The Preliminary Injunction temporarily prohibits the DOL and the State Board of Mediation from enforcing the new collective bargaining and labor organization requirements in HB 1413. Indirectly, this prohibition could affect who your school district is permitted to bargain with and how that bargaining should look in both process and substance.
Is this decision final?
No. The Preliminary Injunction stops enforcement of HB 1413 for the time being, but only until the Court issues a final determination on its constitutionality. The fact that the Court issued a preliminary injunction at this point does not necessarily signal that the Court intends to find HB 1413 unconstitutional in a future ruling. The Court may ultimately decide that HB 1413 is valid and enforceable, effectively lifting the preliminary injunction.
We will not know what the final decision is until the Court issues a final determination or until the matter has been appealed to the Court of Appeals.
Do we need to change how we are discussing or negotiating salaries with our employees?
Whether your school district needs to implement any changes depends on how you have been discussing or negotiating salaries with your employees. If you are in the middle of formal negotiations through the collective bargaining process with a local union already certified as the exclusive bargaining representative, it probably does not make sense to disrupt that process midstream. That said, you will want to work with legal counsel to determine whether the Preliminary Injunction affects your bargaining strategy concerning the substance and terms in any proposed final agreement as well as the procedure for your Board to discuss and vote on tentative agreements.
Alternatively, if your school district voluntarily recognizes a bargaining group, HB 1413 and the Preliminary Injunction create a confusing legal conflict, particularly in connection with the certification and re-certification process. Legal advice can help make sure your school district does not make a misstep with unintended consequences.
Finally, if your school district does not participate in traditional bargaining but instead uses employee groups like salary or benefits committees, the Preliminary Injunction complicates your discussions with those groups. HB 1413 remains in effect, even though the Court Order temporarily prevents enforcement. Depending on past practice and how your discussions with the employee group is structured, you will need to weigh with legal counsel your different options.
We are in the middle of the certification process for a new local union. Now what?
The Preliminary Injunction is silent on this issue. The State Board of Mediation remains responsible for running the certification process, including coordinating and managing all required votes. It is unclear, however, how the Board will respond to the Court Order and whether it will halt current voting already or soon-to-be under way. You should discuss with legal counsel how your District can and should respond to this unexpected uncertainty.
As your District finalizes the budget for next school year, it important for you and your administrative team to think through how you have been working with teachers and staff toward consensus on salaries and other working conditions (e.g., school calendar). Depending on where you are in the bargaining process or what type of discussions you have had with your employee groups, the Court’s preliminary injunction may afford you certain opportunities and alternative options worth exploring with legal counsel.
We will provide additional information and guidance regarding HB 1413, the pending case in St. Louis County, and any subsequent appeals as the issue develops. For more information about collective bargaining and your District, please contact: