If Employees on Salary or Benefit Committees Will Represent Other Employees, Then They Must Be Certified by the State Board of Mediation Through an Election

EdCounsel recently made inquiry of the State Board of Mediation seeking an opinion as to whether school district employee salary or benefit committees would be required to be certified by the State Board of Mediation, through an election process conducted by the State Board, in order to represent employees in discussions with their employer school district.   In sum, if a committee or group of employees wants to represent employees in their job classification, other than merely themselves as individual employees, in dealing with the District about working conditions, benefits or compensation, then they will need to seek certification from the State Board of Mediation through an election process.

The informal response from the State Board of Mediation to EdCounsel’s inquiry was that, “Under Missouri’s recently revised public sector labor law, any employee may continue to reach out to the representative of a public body asking to discuss the terms and condition of his/her employment.  However, a public body may only ‘meet and bargain’ on any matter relating to employment affecting an entire bargaining unit with a labor organization that has been certified as the “exclusive bargaining representative” of such bargaining unit as determined by the Board under Sections 105.00 to 105.598 RSMo.”  The email response from the State Board also indicated that, “Groups of public employees that do not desire to represent the other employees within their bargaining unit do not need to seek certification by the Board.  This is true regardless of whether such a group of employees fits the definition of a labor organization in Sec. 105.500(8).”

The response from the State Board of Mediation suggests that the primary factor in determining whether an employee committee is required to be certified by the State Board is whether the employee committee is intended to represent the other employees in a job class as opposed to just the employees at the table.  Most school districts that create salary and benefits committees do so to receive input from representatives of employee groups, not just the employees at the table.   This factor will need to be taken into account, as well as other factors mentioned in our previous blog at: http://edcounsel.law/2018/10/11/is-your-salary-or-benefits-committee-a-labor-organization-under-hb-1413/, when determining if an employee group must be certified by the State Board.

Moving forward, if the District wants to meet with a group of employees who want to represent other employees in their job classification in discussions regarding compensation, working conditions, or benefits, then the group will likely be required to seek certification from the State Board of Mediation.   If the District seeks input from employee committees, then it should be made clear that the employees only represent themselves in the discussion, and their views on their individual employment conditions, not the views on behalf of other employees in their job classification.

It is important to remember that this informal response does not have the force and effect of law that a court decision would have, but it does provide some indication as to how the State Board of Mediation is likely to interpret the law if it is required to make a determination as to whether particular employee committees are “required” to be certified through the election process.   It is also important to bear in mind that there is a pending lawsuit seeking to declare the new bargaining law invalid that is scheduled to be heard on December 7, 2018.