Peter W. Bay


Collective bargaining – negotiations over working conditions between an employer and representatives of their employees – appeared as early as 1891 as labor unions arose in response to the Industrial Revolution. Collective bargaining in private industry was recognized in 1935 by the National Labor Relations Act but was considered prohibited in the public sector. In 1945, the state of Missouri ratified its constitution, which included article 1, section 29, a provision protecting employee collective bargaining rights. That provision, however, was quickly interpreted by courts as applying only to private employees, and thus, public employees had little power to negotiate employment terms. In the 1960s the Missouri legislature passed a number of public sector labor laws that established a very limited collective bargaining framework applicable to most government employees. This area of Missouri law remained relatively untouched until 2007 when, in Independence National Education Ass’n v. Independence School District, the Supreme Court of Missouri reinterpreted article 1, section 29 as applying to all Missouri employees. The holding was a decisive victory for teachers and law enforcement (who are statutorily excluded from the public sector labor laws) but left many questions as to what the holding would mean. Then in 2012, the Court again interpreted article 1, section 29 in a pair of cases handed down on the same day: Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police v. City of Chesterfield and American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter. The decisions considered the scope of article 1, section 29, specifically whether the constitutional right of public employees to collectively bargain imposed a corresponding affirmative duty on public employers to collectively bargain with their employees. The Court held that such a duty is inherent in article 1, section 29 – public employers must bargain with employee unions and must do so in good faith with an eye toward reaching an agreement. This Note examines the evolution of collective bargaining rights in Missouri and discusses the import of these 2012 holdings.

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