For a number of years now, since the Missouri’s Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Independence NEA v. Independence School District, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding the collective bargaining process in the State of Missouri for public employees. All processes for those employees that were specifically excluded from the statutory procedures of the State Board of Mediation were subject to what various circuit courts believed to be the appropriate procedure in their various jurisdictions. Needless to say, litigation is not the most efficient way of developing a system for determining appropriate bargaining units, election procedures and collective bargaining guidelines. The new legislation fills many of those gaps, in particular, the scope of employees covered is greatly expanded.
The procedures are very similar to that set forth under federal law. However the public sector is unique, so there are distinctions, the primary one being that voluntary recognition is explicitly noted to be unlawful, hence there must be an election process for every public bargaining unit in the state. Indeed, even currently “certified” labor organizations must be recertified by an election procedure conducted by the State Board of Mediation and the failure to timely schedule such recertification will result in automatic decertification. This process of recertification must also be repeated every three years following initial certification.
In terms of the collective bargaining process, the meetings between the public body and the labor organization are subject to the Sunshine Law and therefore cannot be closed, however the public body may still close meetings and records that are conducted or generated as part of an internal planning and strategy process. The statute also provides certain requirements in terms of topics that must be included in any public body collective bargaining agreement, including specific language regarding management rights, right to work, picketing, strikes, budget shortfalls, and the term of the agreement, which is limited to three years, except for non-economic provisions, which can go beyond three years.
In conjunction with these procedures, there are a number of financial disclosure obligations set forth in the new statute and those disclosures, along with other mandated provisions of the statute, will probably be subject to attack by the unions in this state as to whether or not they are constitutional. However, most of these provisions have already been vetted by other states, hence it is unlikely that any such attacks will be successful.