Protecting your right of association

The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The Missouri constitution has a similar provision that guarantees employees in Missouri the right to “organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”  This allows all citizens to join organizations like Missouri NEA, to band together with people of similar interests and objectives, and to present those interests and objectives to governing bodies.

Therefore, despite the fact that Missouri law does not give teachers the right to collective bargaining, the Constitution gives them the right to present their viewpoints and to make recommendations, either individually or as a group, to the school boards in their districts. Although collective bargaining would give a mechanism for requiring school boards to act upon those recommendations, the fact that teachers do not have that right does not prevent them from making their opinions known.

Further, because teachers are guaranteed the right to association by these constitutional provisions, it is unlawful for the administration to prohibit a teacher from joining an association such as Missouri NEA or to treat a teacher unfairly because of his or her membership in an organization. Like many other situations involving discrimination, it is often difficult to prove that a person is being treated unfairly. However, MNEA is vigilant in protecting members' rights to association and will provide vigorous representation when such unfair treatment is suspected.

Know and protect your rights. There are so many instances when educators are denied rights that other employees enjoy as a matter of course; therefore, it is extremely important that you exercise the rights you do have. Join an organization. Present your opinions and recommendations, through your organization, to the school board. Refuse to submit to unfair treatment because you’ve exercised your rights. And remember that MNEA will support you in these efforts.