Collective bargaining returns for public sector employees in Missouri

Collective bargaining returns for public sector employees in Missouri
By: CJ Cassidy
It's a historic move for workers. The Missouri Supreme Court overturns a 60-year legal standard. The High Court ruled Tuesday that teachers and other public employees have a constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining with their government employers.
The ruling means school boards will have to meet with teacher unions. But there is no requirement that the employer agree to union proposals. However, if the two sides reach an agreement-- it must be treated as an enforceable contract.
Still, striking is not an allowed under Missouri law. The big question - would collective bargaining plus any binding agreements add up to a new formula for change?
Marilyn Bell's used to fighting for money to get the best materials to teach her special needs students at Parkview State School, but she's not sure she'll fight for much else - despite the new Missouri Supreme Court ruling. "As teachers we don't go into this to make money. We go into it because we have a God given talent and we want to use it to educate youngsters,"Bell says.
Cape Girardeau Superintendent Dave Scala agrees with Bell's take. "We have salary committees and so on that already talk with our about these issues. We just hope this won't take away from the professionalism educators exhibit," Scala says. "Courts typically aren't inclined to overturn laws that have been around for years and years," labor attorney Diane Howard says.
She calls the ruling very significant.  "Some employees would probably say it gives them a collective voice to be heard," she says. Howard points out the ruling forces city, county, school and state employers to sit down at the bargaining table and talk with their employees, but they don't have to agree.
Once an agreement is reached though - it would be binding.  "It will be interesting to see what happens," Marilyn Bell says.
The ruling overturned a sixty year old precedent, after the Missouri National Education Association appealed on behalf of employees of the Independence, Missouri School District.