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County must recognize union rep, says Eastern District

Chloe Murdock//April 6, 2023

County must recognize union rep, says Eastern District

Chloe Murdock//April 6, 2023

The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District determined St. Louis County must recognize the police officer’s association as the collective bargaining group for county prosecutor employees.

A trial court had upheld a 2018 secret ballot election that entrusted the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association (SLPOA) as the exclusive bargaining representative for the unit of investigators and non-supervisory attorneys working in the county’s prosecuting attorney’s office. It also determined the county had failed to recognize and collectively bargain with the SLPOA after the election which violated the Missouri Constitution’s right to employee collective bargaining.

In 2018, an SLPOA letter to the county noted that HB 1413 — which was later struck down — excluded public safety labor organizations like SLPOA from the Missouri State Board of Mediation’s oversight. The county claimed that the election of the SLPOA was null and void because the Missouri State Board of Mediation did not oversee it.

On the county’s appeal, the Eastern District was not convinced. Judge James M. Dowd affirmed the summary judgment in the court’s April 4 opinion.

“Nothing in the Missouri public sector labor law requires that the Board conduct representative elections in order to validate public employees’ selection of their exclusive bargaining representative,” Dowd wrote.

Judges Kelly C. Broniec and Philip M. Hess concurred. The law, HB 1413, was struck down in 2021 on equal protection grounds in Missouri National Education Association v. Missouri Department of Labor and Industry Relations.

As a result, the public sector labor law reverted to a 2016 version. Under those statute sections, “elections are not even required to select an exclusive bargaining representative, much less elections run by the Board,” Dowd wrote.

Neil Bruntrager of Bruntrager & Billings in Clayton represents the SLPOA. He noted that this opinion expands that law to a degree while dealing with simple constitutional rights.

“I think it actually kind of expands that law, by the way,” Bruntrager said. “It basically says if you have a majority of members of the potential bargaining unit, if you can show you have a majority, they really have to recognize you and have to meet and confer.”

Jillian M. Mueller of Jackson Lewis in St. Louis represents the county. She did not respond to a call requesting comment. Bruntrager said the SLPOA will be following up with a letter to the county to meet with or without an appeal.

The case is SLPOA v. St. Louis County, ED110948.

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