A recent Missouri Court Appeals decision held that the Missouri “Meet and Confer Law” does not cover Police Department employees; therefore, the City of St. Louis could provide for its own procedures relating to collective bargaining, including decertification of a union. This Opinion reaffirms earlier Missouri Supreme Court decisions allowing local government to establish procedures relating to collective bargaining for its employees who are not covered by the Missouri Meet and Confer Law. This Opinion is very useful in that it collects legal authority to establish city procedures to implement the duty to bargain collectively under the Missouri Constitution when the employees are not covered by the Meet and Confer Law.
Following the passage of state legislation in 2013, establishing local control over the City of St. Louis’s Police Department, the City created its own police force, making it an internal department of the City. The Police Department had previously operated under the control of the state appointed Police Board. When the City assumed control of its own local police department the police chief assumed the position of Police Chief for the newly created City department.
In 2014, an employee of the Police Department submitted a petition requesting decertification of the St. Louis Police Leadership Organization (SLPLO) as the exclusive bargaining agent for the City police sergeants under Rule 13 of the City. The Police Chief, pursuant to Rule 13, appointed a committee to review the petition, which determined and reported to the Police Chief that the petition was authentic and contained the signatures of the majority of the employees in the designated bargaining unit as required by Rule 13. The Police Chief then decertified the SLPLO as the exclusive bargaining agent.
The SLPLO then filed suit in circuit court contending that the action taken to decertify was constitutionally deficient under Article 1, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution because it did not provide the SLPLO with an opportunity to challenge the decertification petition nor did it require a vote to be held by its members to determine whether or not to decertify the SLPLO as exclusive bargaining unit; thereby, violating the right to bargain collectively under the Missouri Constitution.
The circuit court rendered judgment for the City and the SLPLO appealed to the Eastern District, which held that the City Missouri Constitution does not “…require any specific procedures within which to conduct collective bargaining activities by either employees or employers.” In the absence of wording in the Missouri Constitution a public employer may establish standards for bargaining units, election processes and the appropriate subjects for bargaining, which are not covered by Missouri “Meet and Confer” law.
The rules of the City did not provide a right to challenge the decertification petition; therefore it had no affect on the police officer’s right to bargain collectively. Rule 13 allows decertification to occur by petition rather than a vote renders an election unnecessary. Rule 13 is the City’s only rule or regulation providing a procedural framework for the decertification of a recognized labor organization.
Based upon the opinion of the court in the City of St. Louis decertification case and earlier Missouri Supreme Court decisions, local government may proceed with confidence when it establishes procedures governing collective bargaining for Police Department employees.I would add the caveat that in order to avoid a challenge that local government did not engage in collective bargaining when it established the procedures it would be advisable (even though not required) to discuss changes with employee groups in order to avoid unnecessary litigation.
Howard Wright© 2016
For related topics see: