Monarch Fire District fails again in effort to destroy union's contract
An effort by the anti-union Monarch Fire Protection District Board (MFPD) to destroy the contract between the District and Fire Fighters Local 2665 failed a second time when a St. Louis Circuit Court again ruled in favor of the fire fighters.
But the fire fighters’ second victory is only temporary, as the MFPD has appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals. The first effort to destroy the union’s contract was rejected by the Circuit Court in July 2014.
The magnitude of the case’s ultimate outcome could have ramifications for unions throughout the U.S.
The issue at stake is the union’s Evergreen Clause, a standard in every collective bargaining contract that says all provisions of a contract remain in force while new negotiations are underway, even if the contract’s expiration date has passed.
Had the lawsuit been successful, when the contract expired the Fire District Board could have refused to re-negotiate a new agreement and would have been able to unilaterally turn back the clock on the union’s wages, work hours, paid vacations, sick leave and anything else it wanted to change.
This undoubtedly has been the Board’s long-term goal based on its anti-union efforts ever since former state representative Jane Cunningham, an ardent anti-unionist, was elected Board secretary in 2013.
SUED WHILE IN NEGOTIATIONS
In early December 2013 before the contract was to expire on Dec. 31, even as negotiations were underway with Local 2665, the MFPD sued to eliminate the Evergreen Clause from the union’s contract. The MFPD lost an earlier attempt in July 2014 when the court rejected the Board’s initial attempt to have the Evergreen Clause declared illegal.
But even as the lawsuit was underway, Local 2665 continued to try and find an agreeable resolution by meeting with the MFPD at least 10 times between October 2013 and February 2014. After that, the MFPD said there was no reason to meet since the two sides were apparently at loggerheads.
“The negotiations they did engage in before and during their lawsuits were fruitless,” said Local 2665 attorney Rick Barry.
Brent Coleman, Local 2665 shop steward, a captain at the Monarch Fire Protection District, said the meetings that did take place were “quite contentious.
“Even with the Board’s actions against the union, we are ready and willing to meet and negotiate,” Coleman said, stressing that “while we are far apart, nothing can be resolved until we sit together and talk. We’re ready whenever they want.”
“They didn’t want a collective bargaining agreement, and the Evergreen Clause was standing in their way. So they tried to eliminate it,” Barry noted.
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WASTE OF TAXPAYER’S $$$$
“Monarch firefighters and paramedics had hoped the court’s order resolved this issue… and ended the wasteful expenditure of tax payers’ money… but, apparently, that won’t be the case,” Coleman said.
“The district’s appeal will result in more expenditure of time and taxpayers’ money, and may potentially complicate and delay negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement.”
Ruling in the union’s favor Judge Walsh concluded: “(The union’s) Agreement shall continue to remain in full force and effect while the parties continue to negotiation acceptable terms of a new agreement.”
Fire, rescue service to continue unabated
While the unfortunate fight for justice for union fire fighters and paramedics in the Monarch Fire Protection District continues, Fire Fighters Local 2665 issued a statement to the District’s residents:
“Monarch fire fighters and paramedics, members of IAFF Local 2665, want to assure all citizens and businesses in our District that we will continue to respond to all emergency calls we receive for first response and fire suppression services without any delays or disruption of service.”
‘Transparency’ is not so translucent in the Monarch Fire Protection District
The Monarch Fire Protection District Board proudly boasts that it is transparent in all it does, but that boast is questionable.
In an effort to look at the minutes of the negotiating sessions between Fire Fighters Local 2665 and the Board, minutes which were initially posted on their District’s website, it was discovered ALL the minutes involving the negoltiations had been removed.
In fact all the information except one proposal from the fire fighters has been removed, pointed out Local 2665 Shop Steward Brent Coleman, a fire captain in the District.
“Our proposals have been modified several times during what negotiations we did have, but the District chose to leave only one proposal on the website – our most aggressive proposal -- that included a lot of things we ultimately agreed to change in future discussions. The later modified proposals were not posted. It’s clear this is yet another of their ongoing tactics to try and make us look bad to residents,” Coleman pointed out.
“So much for their vaunted transparency.”