NEWS RELEASE: MU graduate workers win right to collectively bargain


From the Missouri National Education Association
1810 E. Elm St., Jefferson City, MO 65101

For further information: 
Loretta Haggard
Schuchat Cook & Werner
Phone: (314) 621-2626

July 30, 2019

Columbia, MO – Today, in a landmark decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals held that graduate student workers have a constitutional right to engage in collective bargaining with their employer, the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Court found that such graduate workers are “employees” protected by Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution and entitled to select a collective bargaining representative to negotiate terms and conditions of employment on their behalf. This decision is the first Missouri appellate court to address this issue.


The Coalition of Graduate Workers (“CGW”), a union that is an affiliate of the Missouri National Education Association, filed the lawsuit in 2016, after the University repeatedly refused graduate worker requests to unionize. The University claimed that the graduate workers were not employees within the meaning of the Missouri Constitution. In June of 2018, Judge Harris of the Boone County Circuit Court, rejected that claim and ruled in favor of the CGW, and the University appealed.


In its opinion, the Court of Appeals agreed by stating, “[T]he University’s argument ignores the plain and ordinary meaning of “employee” in article I, section 29. …[That provision] does not exclude employees who also happen to be students.”


The Court of Appeals expressed some questions about the remedy for the University’s violation of Article I, Section 29 and remanded the case back to Judge Harris to address those issues.


“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals recognized that the constitutional right to collectively bargain extends to student workers,” said Michael Vierling. “They should have a voice in the workplace just as other public employees.”

The Coalition of Graduate Workers represents graduate workers employed by University of Missouri - Columbia. CGW is an affiliate of the 33,000-member MNEA, which 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. Missouri NEA is an affiliate of the 3 million-member National Education Association.  


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Posted Date: 7/30/2019
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