JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - The Supreme Court of Missouri has ruled that two cities have a duty to bargain collectively with police unions but they do not have to establish a procedural framework to carry this out.
A majority of police officers and sergeants in University City and Chesterfield, Mo. signed "representation interest cards" supporting the certification of the Eastern Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15, as their exclusive representative for collective bargaining.
The union then requested that each city voluntarily recognize the union's representative status and establish a procedural framework for collective bargaining. After both cities declined the union's request, the union petitioned the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, asking the court to require the cities to establish a "meaningful procedural framework" allowing law enforcement employees to bargain collectively with their employers.
The cities' position was that "they are under no duty to adopt a process for collective bargaining and that the court lacked the authority to force a public employer to adopt such a process."
The circuit court ruled in favor of the union, ordering the cities to "expeditiously establish procedures under which the police officers and sergeants could bargain collectively." The cities appealed.
The cities argued that by demanding that they set up a procedural framework, the court had violated the separation of powers doctrine because "compliance with these orders requires legislative action."
On this issue, Judge Patricia Breckenridge, wrote for the 5-1 majority. "While withholding judgment as to whether the trial courts' orders offend the separation of powers, this Court finds that the trial courts' orders were too broad."
"The trial courts erred in requiring the cities to establish a procedure for a meet and confer process rather than simply ordering them to meet and confer with the union, allowing the cities, on their own, to make whatever arrangements are necessary to carry out that order."
However, Breckenridge continued, "Under Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution, the cities of Chesterfield and University City have a legally enforceable duty to bargain collectively."
"Consequently, this Court affirms in part and reverses in part. This Court affirms the trial courts' declarations that the cities must meet and confer... and orders the cities to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining representative for the cities' police officers and sergeants and to collectively bargain with the union by meeting and conferring with the union."