Monarch Fire Fighters have won a significant court case against the Monarch Fire Protection District Board upholding an evergreen clause in the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665’s contract agreement with the district.
The ruling affirms an earlier decision in St. Louis County Circuit Court granting a motion of summary judgment requiring the district to honor terms of an existing collective bargaining agreement with Local 2665 as negotiations continued with the union on a new agreement.
The ruling means Monarch firefighters/paramedics can continue working under their old contract while negotiating a new one. All three judges on the Appeals Court signed the ruling.
IAFF 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright called the ruling “a really big deal” not just for Monarch Fire Fighters but for the union as a whole.
“We have this particular clause in many of our contracts,” Woolbright said. “This is something we’ve had in our contracts for many, many years, but the board out there, with Jane Cunningham at the helm, challenged it. They’re just anti-union, and they’re going to do whatever they can to bust the union.
The case revolved around language in the contract which says the agreement remains in effect “during good faith negotiations and shall continue in full force and effective until such time as a new agreement is agreed upon.”
In 2013, after launching negotiations on a new contract, several months before the old one was set to expire, the district late that year asked the Circuit Court for a declaratory judgment that the evergreen clause was void and unenforceable because it prevented the district from modifying aspects of the agreement concerning firefighter/paramedic work hours, paid vacations, sick leave and related matters.
The union responded seeking a declaratory judgment that the provision was and is enforceable. When the trial court ruled in favor of the union’s position in August 2015, the district appealed.
The district argued five points in its appellate case against the firefighters. The Appeals Court rejected all five , likening the district’s argument to “a house of cards.”
“The district theorizes that it possesses the power to repudiate this contract at its will,” the Appeals Court said. “Of course, acceptance of this would render any contract with a public entity unenforceable.”
Although the requirements for the labor contract “were scrupulously followed [and] no one contends otherwise,” the Appeals Court found, “the district perseveres in asserting that it can unilaterally repudiate a contract it entered into in accord with Missouri law.
“With this argument,” the Appeals Court ruled, “the district’s house of cards careens toward its inevitable collapse.”
The Monarch board has decided against further appeal and has agreed to resume negotiations this fall.