St. Louis police union challenges city’s effort to invalidate contract

Claiming an impasse in contract talks, City says expired agreement is no longer valid

The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA), the union representing St. Louis police officers, is challenging the city’s claims of an impasse in negotiations over a new three-year contract and says it is considering legal action.

The collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) covering pay, rank, policies and employee rights for rank-and-file officers and sergeants within the department expired on June 30 but has remained in place while negotiations continued a standard practice.

However, the city now says that agreement is no longer enforceable.

Brian Millikan, the attorney representing the union, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the union does not believe an impasse was reached and the collective-bargaining agreement should still be considered valid, adding that the union is “considering all available legal remedies at this time.”

St. Louis Deputy Director of Personnel Linda Thomas said her office and the police department declared the impasse with the police union on April 2.

“We’re required to meet and confer with them, but we’re not required to come to terms,” she told the Post.

Neither city officials nor union representatives would divulge what topics stalled the nearly year-long talks.

“No one issue led to this result,” the police department said in a statement. “However, the lack of a CBA does not devalue the Police Commissioner’s belief in integrity, leadership and fair treatment to all.”

Those at the negotiating table have included six police officers, SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda and the union’s attorney. The city has had representatives from the police department, the city personnel office, the mayor’s staff and city counselor’s office.

The impasse comes at a time when police contracts and department transparency have been under increased scrutiny nationally and locally following the death last year of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some critics see the agreements as barriers to reform because of their protections for officers. But union contracts – ALL union contracts – are in place not only to cover pay and benefits but to protect employees, in this case police officers, from unfair discipline and discharge.

Speaking at a news conference last week, Mayor Tishaura Jones, a strong supporter of unions, said it’s important for city officers to have a collective-bargaining agreement in place.

“Absolutely I think they should have a collective-bargaining agreement, they’ve had one for years,” Jones said. “However, it looks like we’ll have to come back to the table because there’s an impasse.”

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