MSTA sues to block teacher pay raise
In a desperate attempt to cause another "log jam" in the Wentzville School District's negotiations for 2008 teacher salaries and other improvements, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) filed a lawsuit against the Wentzville School District and Board of Education. The lawsuit makes erroneous claims about the board's right to decide who should represent the teachers at the bargaining table. MSTA lost in court yesterday afternoon on a motion to immediately stop the bargaining process in Wentzville.
"MSTA has fought against teachers having collective bargaining rights for years," says Chris Guinther, president of the Missouri National Education Association. "Since the Missouri Supreme Court's decision last spring, MSTA has been doing everything it can to undermine teachers' rights to choose who will represent them at the bargaining table."
Guinther is referring to a May 2007 Missouri Supreme Court decision, upholding the teacher rights to collective bargaining. Article 1, section 29 of the Missouri Constitution reads in part, "employees have the right to bargain through representatives of their own choosing."
"They cannot have a free ride anymore," Guinther says. "If MSTA ever decides to support collective bargaining, they'll have to seek recognition by the school board and do the hard work of proving to the board that they have enough support from teachers to be the representative. MSTA couldn't do that in Wentzville."
MSTA and Wentzville National Education Association (WNEA) had shared representation for years. Prior to the Supreme Court decision, the school board could decide if it would negotiate with teachers and who would be allowed to represent teachers at the table. The Supreme Court decision changed things by placing the decision about teacher representation in the hands of teachers.
Since the Supreme Court decision, WNEA has been seeking a change in the process to reflect true collective bargaining. Over 550 of the 760 teachers are members of the WNEA. In April, the Board of Education voted to grant the local NEA unit exclusive bargaining rights. As the exclusive bargaining representative WNEA has the responsibility to represent all teachers, including non-members.
"As a result of good-faith negotiations with the board, WNEA has accepted responsibility for representing all teachers in Wentzville, and we have tentative agreements for salary and working conditions in 2008," says Lori Roach, MNEA regional staff working closely with WNEA. "This lawsuit is an attempt to stop or at least slow down the process, which should to be completed by May 15th when contracts need to be finalized."
"Wentzville needs the proposed salary increase to attract the retain the best teachers to ensure the district is competitive during this time when all districts are hiring," Guinther adds. "Derailing WNEA's successful negotiations should be a concern for Wentzville parents. This appears to be a self-serving act on MSTA's part."
The 34,000-member MNEA represents teachers, education support professionals, college faculty, retired teachers and students studying to be teachers in school districts and on college campuses throughout the state. It is the Missouri affiliate of the 3.2 million-member NEA.