Columbia teachers elect union representation

Oct 12, 2012

Teachers in the Columbia Public School District have chosen the Columbia Missouri National Education Association to represent them through collective bargaining.

More than 900 teachers went to the polls on Thursday to decide if they wanted to be represented by a union.  Winning 55 percent of the votes, teacher’s union Columbia Missouri National Education Association will now be able negotiate legally-binding agreements with the school district about Columbia teacher’s salaries and working conditions. President Susan McClintic says the next step is to survey their teachers.

“As educators, we are very well aware that as we look and service our children that exact same way that we don’t leave anyone out, that you bring everyone along," she says. "You encourage everyone to share their voice.”

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher says many high-performing school districts in St. Louis and Kansas City have also adopted a similar model of collective bargaining. But he says this is not a normal union.

“Because it was never put under a federal law so whatever is brought forward to the board can either accept that contact, reject it or modify it," he says. "There is no binding arbitration and no requirement that you have to agree. There’s simply a requirement that you negotiate.”

For 65 years, public school teachers in Missouri were not able to collectively bargain. Public Employee Labor Law allowed public employees discuss their salaries or working conditions, but employers were able to rescind their agreements with teachers at any time. But in 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court extended the right to collective bargaining to public employees prompting school districts, such as Columbia, to find union representation.