ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – The St. Louis Police Officers Association is suing St. Louis County after officials allegedly refused to begin contract negotiations following the unionization of attorneys and investigators.
In the fall of 2018, several St. Louis County attorneys and investigators contacted the St. Louis Police Officers Association about representing them in a collective bargaining unit regarding the terms and conditions of employment, according to the lawsuit. The association reportedly agreed to further the talks regarding representation of the group after one-third of them signed authorization cards.
After the authorization cards were signed, the St. Louis Police Officers Association said they contacted St. Louis County and informed them of the interest and requested voluntary recognition of the association as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for the unit.
On November 15, 2018, a letter was sent from the St. Louis Police Officers Association to then-County Executive Steve Stenger to propose a secret ballot election that would determine whether or not the proposed bargaining unit wished to be represented by them, the lawsuit states. A day later, the lawsuit alleges, the County Executive sent a letter to the St. Louis Police Officers Association in which it was stated that the county was exploring “a number of issues concerning voluntary recognition or an election.”
In December 2018, 33 votes were cast in favor of making the St. Louis Police Officers Association the exclusive bargaining representative. The in-favor votes represented an “absolute majority” of eligible voters, according to the lawsuit.
In early January 2019, Ed Clark, who was the president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association at the time, sent a letter to Stenger and St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell requesting dates for bargaining regarding the terms and conditions of the employment of the bargaining unit. The letter also reportedly stated there should be no unilateral changes in working conditions without bargaining.
On the same day, a letter was also sent to Bell protesting the firing of two members of the bargaining unit and the issuance of new office policies without notice and bargaining with the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
In April 2019, Sam Page was appointed County Executive after Stenger resigned prior to pleading guilty to charges in a pay-to-play scheme.
According to the lawsuit, as of January 2020 Bell and St. Louis County have failed and refused to meet and bargain with the St. Louis Police Officers Association. In addition, the two entities have made changes in the terms and conditions of employment without notifying the St. Louis Police Officers Association and its bargaining committee.
Bell was reportedly not named in the lawsuit because those working in his office are employed by the St. Louis County Executive.
Doug Moore, Director of Communications for Page, released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
The union has been in discussions with Mr. Bell, but this is the first time we’ve heard that they were interested in talking to us about it. Lawsuit or not, we will bargain with any properly-constituted union as the law requires. We will reach out to the union representatives to see where communications fell apart.