Firm News & Events
After almost 40 years at the Shell Building, we are excited to announce that we are relocating to the historic 555 Washington Building in downtown St. Louis. Beginning June 24, 2020, our new address will be 555 Washington Ave., Suite 520, St. Louis, MO 63101-1249. If you need to reach one of our attorneys, you can still contact us by phone (314-732-1127 or 888-365-0445), e-mail, or visit us on Facebook. Stay tuned for more information on our new office!
The attorneys and staff Schuchat, Cook, and Werner hope you are staying safe and well. We remain available to discuss matters with you, research answers to questions, and strategize with you about how to best serve you during this extraordinary time. For information on the latest developments regarding COVID 19 and the rights of employees, unions, not-for-profit corporations, employee benefit plans, professional corporations and associations, and other employers, visit our COVID 19 Resource Center.
Jim Singer’s efforts to confront and to take action to remedy the injustice of racism in the St. Louis region have resulted in an engaging and enlightening article, cowritten with Ellen Kunkelmann, that was published in the Spring 2020 edition of Gateway, The Magazine of the Missouri Historical Society. To read the article click here.
The attorneys and staff Schuchat, Cook, and Werner hope you are well and taking recommended precautions.
We also want you to know that we remain available to assist as always. You can contact us by telephone, email, or video or phone conference if a meeting is not feasible. Some of our attorneys are working from home, but everyone is still able to discuss matters with you, research answers to questions, and strategize with you about how to best serve you during this extraordinary situation.
We are monitoring the rapidly evolving circumstances of COVID-19 and are here to help you as we all navigate this unprecedented situation. Most importantly, stay safe and well!
We were saddened to learn that Charles Werner, one of the founders of our law firm, passed away Saturday morning surrounded by his loving family. Charles had recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Charles spent decades in the trenches with our union clients fighting the battles of Organized Labor, and had served in a number of leadership positions over the years including University City Councilman, Chair of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, Chair of the Labor and Employment Section of the American Bar Association, and President of Shaare Emeth Congregation. Charles will be deeply missed by all of the people whose lives he touched over these many years.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is pleased to announce that we have received Regional Tier 1 Recognition in the 2020 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” in the areas of Employment Law – Individuals, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, and Labor Law – Union.
We are proud of our very own noted historian, Jim Singer, and his continuing efforts to educate the public about Dr. Howard Venable and the creation of Bierne Park which inspired the movement to rename Bierne Park. Watch Jim talk about how he learned about Dr. Venable and Bierne Park and explain the history behind the headlines.
Congratulations to Will Suggs who recently passed the Illinois Bar Exam.
Jim Singer’s efforts to confront and to take action to remedy the injustice of racism in the St. Louis region have been recognized by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Click here to read more about Jim’s work to educate the public about Dr. Howard Venable and the creation of Bierne Park and the movement to rename Bierne Park that has been sparked by his efforts.
Rhona Lyons will be serving on two panel discussions at the upcoming 34th Annual ERISA Basics National Institute sponsored by the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits scheduled for October 16-18, 2019 in Chicago, IL. Rhona will be discussing ERISA preemption and the reporting and disclosure requirements that generally apply to ERISA-governed health plans under the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, ADA, GINA and other statutes and regulations.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is pleased to announce that the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law elected Christopher Hexter (Of Counsel) as its Chair in August. The Section is made up of 12,000 union, employee, and management attorneys from across the United States and the globe. The Section presents conferences, workshops, papers, and policy statements on labor and employment issues from all perspectives and is regarded as one of the nation’s foremost forums for addressing these issues.
GRADUATE WORKERS AT UM WIN RIGHT TO COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN
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.”
Contact for more information: Loretta Haggard, Schuchat Cook & Werner, 314-621-2626
Jim Singer co-authored an article titled “DC Plans Encourage Lifetime Participation Through Individual Retirement Advice” which has been published in the April 2019 issue of Benefits Magazine, a monthly publication of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Click here to read a copy of the article.
Reproduced with permission from Benefits Magazine, Volume 56 Number 4, pages 26-31, April 2019, published by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (www.ifebp.org), Brookfield, Wisconsin. All rights reserved. Statements or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of the International Foundation, its officers, directors or staff. No further transmission or electronic distribution of this material is permitted.
Mychael Wozniak, a devoted employee of over 10 years, retired this month. He was an important part of the fabric of our Firm – hardworking and dedicated to the cause. We will truly miss him and his wonderful sense of humor and unparalleled cooking skills.
On Friday, Jan. 25, Saint Louis University School of Law inducted Sally Barker and nine other distinguished individuals into the Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame. The SLU LAW Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame is the highest honor from Saint Louis University School of Law. For more information including a video highlighting the honorees click here. Congratulations, Sally! Your dedication to our clients and their members is a continuing inspiration to us all.
Starting in January 2019, Jim Singer will again be teaching a three-credit class on Employee Benefits at the St. Louis University School of Law. Jim will be teaching along with Professor Matt Bodie, Callis Family Professor of Law and Co-Director of the William C. Wefel Center for Employment Law. The class will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and will examine the tax, labor, and other regulatory and policy aspects of employee benefit plans.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is proud to announce that two of our attorneys have been selected by Best Lawyers as 2019 “Lawyers of the Year” in the St. Louis region. George Suggs was selected as Lawyer of the Year for his expertise in the area of union labor law and Jim Singer was selected as Lawyer of the Year for his expertise in the area of employee benefits (ERISA) law. In addition, George, Sally Barker, Marilyn Teitelbaum, Loretta Haggard, and Chris Hexter were selected as Best Lawyers for their expertise in labor and employment law. Jim was also selected as a Best Lawyer for his expertise in employee benefits law.
Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Lawyers with the highest overall peer-feedback for a specific practice area and geographic region are recognized as the “Lawyer of the Year.” Only one lawyer is recognized as the “Lawyer of the Year” for each specialty and location.
Court Upholds Right of Graduate Student Workers to Elect an Exclusive Collective Bargaining Representative
Ruling orders University of Missouri to begin bargaining with union
JEFFERSON CITY -Judge Jeff Harris of the Boone County Circuit Court issued an order on June 21, 2018, recognizing that graduate student workers at the University of Missouri – Columbia have a constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively with the University. The name of the case is Coalition of Graduate Workers, et al. v. The Board of Curators of the University of Missouri., Cause No. 16BA – CV01634. The plaintiffs are represented by Natalie Teague and Loretta Haggard of the law firm of Schuchat, Cook & Werner.
The Coalition for Graduate Workers (“CGW”), an affiliate of the Missouri National Education Association, was established to represent graduate workers after the University abruptly terminated their health insurance in August, 2015. CGW twice requested the University to hold a secret ballot election for graduate workers to decide whether they wanted CGW to represent them in bargaining with the University. The University refused. In April, 2016, the independent organization, League of Women Voters, held a secret ballot election asking graduate workers to vote whether or not they wanted to be represented by CGW. Eighty-four percent of those who voted chose CGW to represent them. Following the election, CGW requested to bargain, but the University refused. CGW filed suit against the University in May, 2016.
The Court declared that Article I, Section 29 plainly applies to all “employees,” and leaves no room for excluding employees who are also graduate students. The Court found it “abundantly clear” that graduate workers fall within the ordinary definitions of “employee” in the dictionary and Missouri cases, because they perform services under the direction of faculty members in exchange for a wage.
By refusing CGW’s repeated requests for an election, the Court held, the University forfeited its right to establish the bargaining framework. “Indeed,” the Court concluded, “allowing the University to benefit from its refusal to set the election framework two years ago would frustrate the very purpose of Article I, Section 29” and delay the bargaining process “to which plaintiffs are entitled under the Missouri Constitution.” The Court declared CGW the “duly elected exclusive bargaining representative of graduate workers at the University of Missouri – Columbia,” and ordered the University to begin bargaining with CGW.
The President of the University of Missouri announced on June 22 that it intends to appeal.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is proud to announce that Loretta K. Haggard has been selected as a 2017 Missouri & Kansas “Super Lawyer” for her performance in the area of labor and employment law. “Super Lawyer” candidates go through a three-phase selection process. Once candidates reach the final level, they are evaluated based on 12 indicators of professional achievement and peer reviewed in their primary areas of practice.
Congratulations to Chris Grant who, along with Jamie Rehmann of Dowd Bennett, received the Rory Ellinger Award for Public Interest Litigation from Empower Missouri for their tireless work for low wage workers. Chris and Jamie were honored at last night’s Award Presentation at the Empower Missouri 2017 Annual Conference. The Rory Ellinger Award for Public Interest Litigation was established by the Board of Directors of Empower Missouri to honor the memory of Rory Ellinger, a former state president, vice president and treasurer of Empower Missouri’s predecessor organization, Missouri Association for Social Welfare, and to honor those valiant legal champions who help advocates pursue justice through the courts, win or lose.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner was proud to celebrate with IBEW Local 309 at their annual Night at the Races!
Schuchat, Cook & Werner congratulates several members of our outstanding support staff for their years of dedicated service and support for our attorneys and clients. Thank you to Alisa Caldwell (15 Years), Nicole Garrett (17 Years), and Christine Lay (48 years)!
On June 21, 2017, Charles Werner received the William L. Weiss Award from the Board of Governors of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) in recognition of his leadership and years service with BAMSL and the St. Louis legal community.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has enforced an NLRB order, finding that a subsidiary of Chipotle Mexican Grill unlawfully terminated employee Patrick Leeper because of his participation in the “Show-Me $15” campaign. Rochelle Skolnick and Chris Grant represented the Show-Me $15 campaign in the case. Patrick has fought relentlessly for fairness in the workplace and is a dedicated supporter of the movement. Congrats to Patrick and to Show-Me $15!
On February 28, 2017, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the power of the City of St. Louis to pass a local minimum wage ordinance. At the day of the decision, the minimum wage rate in the City of St. Louis is $10 per hour. The decision confirms the power of cities to enact progressive, local legislation. Workers deserve this increase and a fair, decent living wage to provide for their families. Schuchat, Cook & Werner attorney Chris Grant assisted various ally organizations in the defense of the ordinance and filed an amicus brief in support of the City of St. Louis on behalf of Missouri Jobs with Justice, the National Employment Law Project, and several labor law and municipal law scholars.
In the February 17, 2017 edition of the South County and Webster-Kirkwood Times, Matt Leppert discusses his involvement as Board President and Volunteer Readers with Ready Readers and the importance of early childhood literacy skills in helping to break the cycle of poverty in the St. Louis community, noting that “Literacy is one of the keys to helping children break out of this cycle. When I see in their faces the awe and joy, and the fascination of reading that unlocks their spirit, their imagination, their desire for understanding, I know that I’m contributing to ignite that spark.”
Sally Barker recently spent some quality time educating the Columbia, Missouri City Council on the benefits of public-sector bargaining, noting that “Collective bargaining is a two-way process, and it does give unions and employees the feeling that they’re not being dictated to . . . .”
Marilyn Teitelbaum recently spoke at the Tenth Annual Section of Labor and Employment Law Conference which was held in Chicago from November 9-12, 2016. Marilyn provided the Union’s Perspective on the “The Evolving Law of Successorship in Business Transactions” panel. Marilyn and Amanda Hansen also prepared a paper for the panel.
On November 6, 2016, Musicians Association of St. Louis Local 2-197 presented their Lifetime Achievement Award to Charles Werner. It is only the second Lifetime Achievement Award ever presented by Local 2-197.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner recently held a reception at the Old Post Office in downtown St. Louis to honor both the 125th anniversary of the IBEW and two of SCW’s founding partners – James K. Cook and Charles A. Werner. SCW is honored to have shared a rich history with the IBEW of striving to improve the lives of working people in Missouri and Illinois which goes back to the 1950’s. Over 165 IBEW representatives attended the reception. IBEW Eleventh District Vice President Curtis Henke presented Mr. Cook and Mr. Werner with honorary IBEW memberships in recognition of their years of dedicated service to the IBEW.
Congratulations to Rhona Lyons on her induction as a Fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. The College is dedicated to “Fostering excellence in the practice of employee benefits law and advancing public understanding of employee benefits.” Rhona’s induction as a Fellow reflects both her expertise in the field of employee benefits law and her longstanding commitment to providing exceptionally high-quality professional services to her clients, the public, and the bar and raising public awareness and understanding of employee benefits laws.
Jim Singer helped cut the wire to open the Electrical Workers Historical Society’s Henry Miller Museum.
Congratulations to Matt Leppert who was elected to his second term as President of the Board of Directors of Ready Readers. Ready Readers is a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring preschool age children from low-income communities to LOVE books and to have the emergent literacy skills necessary to become readers when they enter kindergarten. In addition to being President, Matt and Chris Hexter are volunteer readers at two pre-K classrooms in the St. Louis Public Schools.
St. Louis University Law School published its schedule for the Spring 2017 semester. Jim Singer will be teaching a three credit class in the evenings on ERISA along with Professor Matt Bodie.
On May 18, 2016, Department of Labor issued its Final Rule updating the overtime regulations which is expected to extend overtime pay protections to over 4 million workers within the first year of implementation. If you have questions about the Final Rule or for more information on your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act, contact us online, or call 314-732-1127 or 888-365-0445 or visit us on Facebook.
In recognition of our 60 plus year history of representing IBEW Locals, Schuchat, Cook and Werner was honored to be invited to “sign the beam” at the Henry Miller Museum. See Marilyn Teitelbaum, Jim Singer, Loretta Haggard, and Natalie Teague take their turns “signing the Beam” below.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is proud to announce that George Suggs was named the 2016 Lawyer of the Year, Labor Law – Union by Best Lawyers® ! In addition, six of the firm’s attorneys have been selected as 2016 Best Lawyers by The Best Lawyers® for their performance in multiple areas of expertise. James I. Singer was named for his work in employee benefits. Sally E. Barker, George O. Suggs, Marilyn S. Teitelbaum, Christopher T. Hexter and Charles Werner were all named for their work in labor and employment law.
The United States Department of Labor published the Report of the ERISA Advisory Council on Pension Risk Transfers. Jim Singer served as the Council’s Issue Chair for this Report.
HIPAA privacy and security audits are increasing. In May 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights released its HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule compliance audit protocols and pre-screening questionnaire. If you are a plan sponsor and you need help determining whether your benefit plan complies with HIPAA and other provisions of ERISA, contact us online, or call 314-732-1127 or 888-365-0445 or visit us on Facebook.
Jim Singer spoke at the annual Administrators and Professionals Conference of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) in Washington, D.C. on the topic of regulatory developments related to lost participants and lost plans.
Jim Singer will be a panelist in a national webinar sponsored by the Joint Committee of Employee Benefits of the American Bar Association on the topic of “PBM Contract Negotiations.” The webinar will be held April 12. Jim served as the Issue Chair for the 2014 United States Department of Labor ERISA Advisory Council Report titled “PBM Compensation and Fee Disclosure.”
The Wall Street Journal quoted Jim Singer in an article titled “How Pension ‘De-Risking’ May Increase Your Pension Risk.” In the article, Jim was quoted as stating: “Individuals need better information on de-risking transactions than they are currently receiving from employers. This was also the finding of the GAO in a January 2015 report, and the ERISA Advisory Council in a 2013 report.”
St. Louis County Executive Steven V. Stenger appointed Jim Singer to the Board of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District as one of three Board members for St. Louis County.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is pleased to announce that Patrick K. Shinners was named a partner in the firm effective January 2016.
Patrick has been with the Firm since 2005. He is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Illinois and works in all areas of the Firm’s practice. Patrick has handled labor arbitrations, interest arbitrations, administrative proceedings, and state and federal lawsuits and has represented numerous individual employees in negotiations and enforcement of employment agreements, including severance packages and non-compete agreements.
Patrick is also an editor for The Developing Labor Law, co-authored Federal and State Law Governing Public Employees, 3rd Edition, Missouri Bar, 2008 and Workplace Data: Law and Litigation, Chapter 10 (LMRDA), and served as the chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
He received his law degree and certificate in Employment Law from St. Louis University Law School in 2005 where he attended on a Dean’s Scholarship, and received his undergraduate BBA magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Jim Singer appointed to the Board of the Electrical Workers Historical Society
Local 1, IBEW and the IBEW International Union established the Electrical Workers Historical Society to renovate, and operate the Henry Miller Museum located at 2726 Martin Luther King in St. Louis in the Building where Henry Miller, the first President of the IBEW, founded the IBEW 125 years ago. In addition, the Society’s purposes include fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the IBEW and the broader labor movement. The Museum is scheduled to be opened in September 2016 in time for the IBEW’s 125th International Convention in St. Louis. Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs appointed Jim Singer to serve on the Society’s Board. The other Society Board members are Frank, IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson, IBEW International Financial Secretary Salvatore Chilia, and IBEW 11th District Vice President Curtis Henke.
Local 702, IBEW Contributes Large Donation to Art Martin Memorial Fellowship at Saint Louis University School of Law
Local 702, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Business Manager Steve Hughart recently announced a $5000 donation to the Art Martin Memorial Fellowship at Saint Louis University School of Law in Art’s memory by Local 702 on behalf of its members and officers, many of whom worked with Art. Art grew up in Greenville, Illinois which is in the geographic jurisdiction of Local 702. Over the years, Art and Local 702 fought many battles together over the rights of working people in Illinois and Missouri.
The Art Martin Memorial Fellowship is designed to further Art’s legacy of dedication to workers and the labor movement. The Fellowship provides a summer stipend to law students who take low-paying or non-paying public interest jobs focusing on worker rights. It is fitting that this memorial to Art gives law students the opportunity to learn more about labor and employment law while working to further worker rights. The Law School recently awarded the first Art Martin Fellowship to a law student who spent the summer of 2015 in Washington, D.C. working at the Appellate Division of the EEOC.
Contributions to the Art Martin Memorial Fellowship may be sent to:
Saint Louis University School of Law
Office of Development
100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, Mo. 63101
Schuchat, Cook & Werner Announce 6 firm attorneys selected as 2015 “Super Lawyers”
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is proud to announce that six of the firm’s attorneys have been selected as 2015 Missouri “Super Lawyers” for their performance in multiple areas of expertise.
James I. Singer was named for his work in employee benefits. Marilyn S. Teitelbaum, Christopher T. Hexter, Sally E. Barker, Loretta K. Haggard and George O. Suggs were all named for their work in employment and labor.
Sally was also selected as one of the Top 50 female attorneys for Missouri and Kansas.
“Super Lawyer” candidates go through a three-phase selection process. Once candidates reach the final level, they are evaluated based on 12 indicators of professional achievement and peer reviewed in their primary areas of practice.
In April 2015, Jim Singer was appointed to serve as the Team Chair for the United States Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council (Council) which will be investigating and reporting on recommended participant disclosures for risk shifting (de-risking) transactions by employer sponsored defined benefit plans. In 2014, Jim served as the Council’s Team Chair investigating and reporting on the disclosure of compensation/fees of prescription benefit managers (PBMs) for ERISA health care plans; the Council’s 2014 PBM Report is now available on the Council’s website. In 2013, Jim served on the Council’s Team investigating and reporting on pension plan lost participants. In 2012, Jim was nominated by the AFL-CIO, and appointed by the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor to serve a 3-year term on the Department’s ERISA Advisory Council (Council) starting in 2013.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner Earn Top Rankings
Schuchat, Cook & Werner earned top rankings in the St. Louis metropolitan region in the 2015 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” rankings.
The St. Louis employment law firm was placed in the Tier 1 (the top category) for the metropolitan region in Employee Benefits Law, Employment Law and Labor Law.
The rankings are a joint effort between U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers in America. Practice area rankings were produced both nationally and within metropolitan areas across the United States.
Voters in the survey included U.S. lawyers listed in Best Lawyers, as well as law firm clients and law firm associates. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the US. Over 17,000 attorneys provided almost 600,000 law firm assessments, and almost 7,500 clients provided more than 40,000 evaluations.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is pleased to announce that Matthew B. Leppert has been named as a partner in the firm effective January 2015.
Matt has been with the firm since 2003. He is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Illinois, and regularly appears in cases in the Eastern District of Missouri and Southern District of Illinois. He is a member of Schuchat, Cook & Werner’s Employee Benefits (ERISA) group. He advises multi-employer, pension, welfare, and other benefit plans on compliance with federal and state law, provides assistance with plan transactions and administration and drafting plan documents, and represents and defends plans in litigation and before government agencies.
Matt received his Juris Doctor degree and Certificate in Health Law Studies from St. Louis University School of Law, where he served as Senior Articles Editor for Journal of Health Law and as President of the Public Interest Law Group. He also participated in the SLU Law Clinic while a student, and assisted in a successful suit against the State to restore vision benefits to Missouri’s Medicaid recipients. Matt received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Kentucky.
Matt currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) as Member-at-Large. He has served as chair of the BAMSL Employee Benefits Section and co-chair of the BAMSL Motions for Kids Committee, which, in partnership with other organizations, sponsors an annual holiday party for children with one of more parents who have been affected by the justice system. Matt also serves as a Volunteer Reader and Vice-President of Governance for the Board of Directors of Ready Readers, a St. Louis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring preschool age children from low-income communities to love books and to have the emergent literacy skills necessary to become readers when they enter kindergarten.
Matt enjoys gardening and spending time with his wife, Liz, and their daughter, Caroline.
Partners Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard represented the Missouri National Education Association’s affiliate, the Springfield–NEA (“SNEA”) in successfully defending a lawsuit brought against SNEA by a rival teachers’ association, the Springfield Missouri State Teachers’ Association (“SMSTA”) and its parent organization. SMSTA also sued the School District of Springfield, Missouri. On October 29, 2014. Greene County Court Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier issued a judgment in favor of the SNEA and the District on all issues.
SMSTA tried to achieve through this lawsuit what it could not achieve through a democratic election process – i.e. a seat at the bargaining table. In 2010, the majority of District teachers voted for the SNEA over SMSTA to be their exclusive collective bargaining representative. Nevertheless, in the lawsuit, the SMSTA claimed that a school district policy which allowed teachers to choose an exclusive bargaining representative was unconstitutional. The Judge rejected this claim and upheld the District’s policy.
In addition, SMSTA claimed that the practice of the SNEA allowing only members of the union chosen as bargaining representative by a majority of the teachers to vote on approval or ratification of an agreement negotiated with the district was unconstitutional. Judge Cordonnier also rejected this claim and upheld the ratification process.
On the ratification issue, the court followed the lead of the Missouri Supreme Court in its 2012 decision in American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter in looking to federal labor law to give meaning to the Missouri Constitution’s guarantee of the right to collective bargaining in Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution. The court found that the method and means by which an exclusive bargaining representative attains ratification of a collective bargaining agreement are solely determined by the union. Any attempt by the employer to insist upon a particular method or means of ratification would be a violation of the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith.
The court denied Plaintiff’s claim that allowing an exclusive bargaining representative is unconstitutional, citing the 2007 Independence National Education Association v. Independence School District case and various other state and federal cases as authority. The court noted that stated “Missouri law sanctions the use of exclusive bargaining representatives [and] interests of an employer in negotiating with an exclusive bargaining representative outweigh any rights of the non-member employees.”
Schuchat partners Barker and Haggard also handled the Independence case and partner George Suggs handled the AFT case.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner Announce 5 firm attorneys selected as 2014 “Super Lawyers”
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is proud to announce that five of the firm’s attorneys have been selected as 2014 Missouri “Super Lawyers.”
James I. Singer was selected for his work in employee benefits. Selected for their work in the employment & labor area of practice are: Sally E. Barker, Christopher T. Hexter, George O. Suggs and Marilyn S. Teitelbaum.
Sally was also selected as one of the Top 50 female attorneys for Missouri and Kansas.
“Super Lawyer” candidates go through a three-phase selection process. Once candidates reach the final level, they are evaluated based on 12 indicators of professional achievement and peer reviewed in their primary areas of practice.
Natalie advises and represents public and private sector labor unions in all aspects of litigation, organizing and collective bargaining. She also represents individual workers in employment matters, including discrimination and wage and hour disputes. Natalie started her legal career in 2001. Prior to joining SC&W she practiced union-side labor and employment law in Seattle, Washington. Before she started law school, she taught high school in Missouri and was a member of the MNEA.
Amanda works in all areas of the Firm’s practice. Before joining the Firm, she practiced union-side labor law in San Diego, CA, representing public sector and private sector labor unions. During law school Amanda was a Peggy Browning Fellow and interned at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee’s Office of the General Counsel. She received her law degree in 2010.
One of our longest serving attorneys, Chris Hexter spoke in a special Law Day Program at the United States District Court and Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Fifty years ago in the Summer of 1964, Chris joined with about 1,000 other students from the North and West to work in Mississippi as part of the Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Summer in which three Co-Workers were murdered on June 21, 1964. The presentation by Chris and his former project director In Sunflower County Mississippi, Charles McLaurin, is described in the flyer from the Clerks of both the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Firm Partner, Loretta Haggard, has been awarded one of the 2014 Women’s Justice Awards. She is honored as a litigation practitioner who as improved the quality of justice and contributed to the betterment of the profession. The Women’s Justice Awards are sponsored by Missouri Lawyers Media. The award ceremony will take place on April 24, 2014. For more information on this award and the event, click here.
St. Louis Magazine’s February issue (both in hardcopy and on the web) focuses on legal issues. Sally Barker was the employment lawyer interviewed. In answer to the magazine’s question about legal misconceptions in the field of employment law, Barker said:
“Many people incorrectly believe that an employer cannot fire an employee for an unfair reason. Unfortunately, there is no legal recourse for simply an unfair discharge, unless you are protected by a union labor agreement or individual contract of employment. It is unlawful to fire someone for his or her race, sex, religion, disability or medical history, age (over 40), or national origin. Generally, however, without the protection of a union or individual contract, termination of an “at will” (meaning employment without the protection of a contract) employee for an unfair, stupid, or even incorrect reason is not unlawful.”
Barker also commented upon what questions a prospective employer should not ask in an interview:
“Questions an employer should not ask in an interview may vary with the job or other circumstances; however, one topic that generally should not be discussed before you are offered a job is health. In an interview, an employer should not ask questions about your medical history, your family’s medical history, your current health condition (including whether you are pregnant or plan to be pregnant), and whether you have filed workers’ compensation claims in the past.”
On February 2014
Nancy Watkins judicial appointment
On February 18, 2014, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed Firm attorney, Nancy M. Watkins, as an associate circuit judge for St. Louis County Circuit Court. Nixon said, “With her experience in private practice and in public service on commissions that address legal issues, she will be well-prepared to serve the people of St. Louis County on the bench as an Associate Circuit Judge.”
Nancy’s colleagues, clients and friends know how much Nancy richly deserves this appointment. She has been an essential part of Schuchat, Cook & Werner’s labor and employment practice since 2002. The Firm will greatly miss Nancy’s intelligence, integrity, dedication, and collegiality, but also understands how she will bring all of her outstanding qualities to the bench and become an outstanding judge. Our loss is a great gain for the citizens of St. Louis County.
Art Martin Memorial Fellowship at Saint Louis University School of Law
Art Martin graduated with honors from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1984. He distinguished himself in law school serving as the Editor-in- Chief of the Public Law Review.
Art was a loyal alum and friend to the law school. He served as an Adjunct Professor at the law school from 1994 until his death in 2012. Art regularly taught a popular course on “Unions and Their Members” and also taught the “Labor Law” course. The students always gave Art great teaching evaluations– praising his knowledge, his commitment to justice, and his sense of humor.
On November 12, 2013 the School held a reception to announce “The Art Martin Memorial Fellowship” established in his honor. Members of Art’s family including his wife, children and their spouses, and siblings, as well as his ‘law firm family’ from Schuchat, Cook and Werner and his friends at the law school attended. Professors John Ammann and Tonie FitzGibbon, who graduated from SLU Law School with Art, talked about his service to the law school as a professor and assisting with cases being handled by the clinic. Sally Barker spoke on behalf of the Schuchat, Cook and Werner firm. Before announcing the Fellowship, Dean Michael Wolff spoke and remembered Art as a great lawyer who dedicated his life to serving justice and individuals.
As Dean Wolff explained, the Art Martin Memorial Fellowship is designed to further Art’s legacy of dedication to workers and the labor movement. The Fellowship will provide a summer stipend to law students who take low-paying or non-paying public interest jobs focusing on worker rights. It is fitting that this memorial to Art will give law students the opportunity to learn more about labor and employment law while working to further worker rights.
Contributions to the Art Martin Memorial Fellowship may be sent to:
Saint Louis University School of Law
Office of Development
100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, Mo. 63101
A victory for injured workers at the Missouri Supreme Court
Attorneys Dean Christianson and Clare Behrle won a workers’ compensation claim against the Second Injury Fund that will increase the amount of benefits injured workers are entitled to receive from the Fund.
Dean argued the leading case, Buhlinger v. Second Injury Fund, in a group of four cases heard together on the issue of how and when injured workers are eligible for benefits from the Fund.
The Supreme Court made three findings that radically change how claims against the Second Injury Fund are triggered and calculated:
- If the last injury results in any disability there may be a claim against the Fund. In the past, courts interpreted the law to say disability from the last injury had to reach a certain level (threshold) to pursue a claim against the Second Injury Fund. The Supreme Court said there is no threshold requirement for the last injury – meaning an employee may have a claim for benefits from the Second Injury Fund no matter what amount of permanent partial disability is involved.
- A single pre-existing disability that meets the threshold triggers Fund liability. That means any prior disability due to injury or illness that reaches a certain level, either 50 weeks of the body as a whole or 15% of a major extremity, will trigger a claim for benefits from the Fund.
- All disabilities are included in calculating the amount of benefits the Fund must pay. In the past, courts interpreted the law to say only those disabilities that met the threshold requirement, from both the last injury and pre-existing injuries and illnesses, could be used in calculating the amount the Fund owes. The Supreme Court said there is no such requirement; once Fund liability is triggered by disability due to a last injury of any amount and a single pre-existing disability that meets either of the 50 weeks or 15% threshold, then all other disabilities are included to calculate the benefits the Fund pays to the injured worker.
This Supreme Court decision will increase the amount of benefits injured workers can recover from the Fund. If you have been injured at work, call Dean Christianson to find out whether you may be entitled to benefits for medical treatment, time off from work, and permanent disability from your employer and the Second Injury Fund.
To read the Buhlinger decision click on the link below:
Sally Barker of the Firm is representing the Springfield Police Officers’ Association, FOP Lodge 22, in its pursuit of a first collective bargaining agreement with the City. On September 30, 2013, the Springfield City Council held a workshop with the Association and other City unions to discuss a proposed ordinance establishing the City’s framework for collective bargaining.
Barker spoke at the meeting to address concerns the Association has with parts of the ordinance, including an unprecedented formula for how employee groups can elect collective bargaining representative. The Council agreed to review the suggestions for revisions of the ordinance.
For the complete article, click here:
As reported in the St. Louis Labor Tribune, firm partner Sally Barker will assist, as a representative of labor, in rewriting a controversial employee benefits acknowledgment form proposed by the City of St. Louis that initially sparked protests and concern among local labor organizations. The form mandated potential new city employees to acknowledge possible losses of benefits at the discretion of administrators. As drafted, the form did not clearly communicate the City’s responsibility to bargain over benefits. After a cooperative meeting with local labor leaders, the City volunteered to withdraw the form and re-write it with labor’s input.
Public employers like the City have a legal obligation to bargain in good faith with their employees’ representatives over terms and conditions of employment, including benefits. Sally help established the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining in a 2007 Missouri Supreme Court case called Independence National Education Association v. Independence School District.
To view the complete article, click the link:
Partners Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard co-authored the lead article for the winter 2013 edition of “The St. Louis Bar Journal,” entitled The Right of Public Employees to Bargain Collectively Under Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution: Independence National Education Association v. Independence School District and Its Aftermath.
The article analyzes the development of public sector labor law and collective bargaining from the ratification of Article I, Section 29 to the present. It includes the first law journal analysis of the November 20, 2012 Missouri Supreme Court decisions, American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter, and Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15 v. City of Chesterfield and Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15 v. City of University City, which are the first high court decisions to address the meaning of public sector collective bargaining since the Independence decision.
Firm partner George Suggs represented the prevailing plaintiff in the AFT decision, and Barker and Haggard filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of the Missouri National Education Association and the St. Louis Police Officers Associations in support of the positions of the prevailing unions in both cases.
Emerson Electric “coding error” which took away pension of retired Local 1, IBEW member is corrected: Ed Necker is a retired member of Local 1, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers who had worked for Emerson Electric and was transferred by Emerson to Esco until the Esco operations shut down in the mid 1980’s. Under successive Labor Agreements between Emerson and Local 1, IBEW, Emerson had agreed to provide to Local 1, IBEW members a traditional final average pay, defined benefit pension plan. Years later, when Ed Necker attained retirement age and applied to Emerson for pension benefits, he was told that Emerson had no record of his pension. Local 1, IBEW referred Ed Necker to Jim Singer at Schuchat, Cook and Werner. Through Jim’s efforts, it was learned that Ed as well as possibly other laid off Local 1 members had been subject to an Emerson “coding error” which had the effect of taking away their earned pensions. The good news is that at least for Ed Necker, Emerson has corrected the “coding error” and Ed is now receiving the pension that he earned at Emerson as well as back pension benefits.
On December 17, 2012, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that Jim Singer had been appointed to serve a three year term on the ERISA Advisory Council; a link to the Department of Labor press release is: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/2012/12-2455-NAT.html Jim had been nominated by the AFL-CIO because of his years of experience representing multiemployer plans and labor unions in benefit issues. A description of the activities of the ERISA Advisory Council can be found at: http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/aboutebsa/erisa_advisory_council.html
On November 20, 2012, the Missouri Supreme Court issued two important opinions for Missouri public employee unions, strengthening the constitutional right of state and local employees to bargain collectively. Schuchat, Cook & Werner partner, George Suggs, represented the prevailing union in the first case. Partners Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard represented amici in all of the cases. Click here for a link to the opinions.
In the first case, American Federation of Teachers v. Ledbetter, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution, which gives employees the right to bargain collectively, necessarily requires an employer to bargain with a union, in good faith, with the present intention of reaching an agreement. A public employer cannot seek to avoid resolving differences with employees and their union, and must negotiate in good faith.
In the second opinion, involving two consolidated cases, Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15 v. City of Chesterfield and Eastern Missouri Coalition of Police, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 15 v. City of University City, the union had presented evidence to two cities in the form of “representation interest cards” that a majority of their police officers desired representation. In both cases, the cities had declined the request for recognition. The union sued, and the Missouri Supreme Court held that Article I, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution imposes a duty on public employers to recognize and bargain with police officers, even where current statutes do not provide a framework for doing so. The Court ordered the cities to recognize and bargain with the union on the basis of the representation cards that the police officers had signed.
The recent opinions draw heavily from the Missouri Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Independence – National Education Association v. Independence School District, which first confirmed the right of public employees to bargain collectively under the state Constitution. Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard represented the prevailing union in the Independence case.
Despite the clarity of the two new Supreme Court opinions, some public employers may still try to raise obstacles to recognition of a bargaining representative and to meaningful, good faith negotiations. Having been involved in all of the recent Missouri Supreme Court cases involving public sector collective bargaining, attorneys at Schuchat, Cool & Werner are fully prepared to help unions overcome such obstacles. If you have any questions about these cases or need advice on a union matter, feel free to give us a call.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois issued an order enforcing an arbitration award in favor of our client Local 702, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO over “sick bank” benefits due to a disabled union member. The Court ordered the Employer to pay to Local 702 the attorneys fees and costs incurred by Local 702 in enforcing the award. In part, the District Court relied upon earlier warnings issued by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that an employer “will not be permitted to nullify the advantages to the union by spinning out the arbitral process unconscionably through the filing of meritless suits and appeals,” and that “lawyers practicing in the Seventh Circuit take heed” of this rule. The arbitration and the lawsuit were handled by Jim Singer. See Southwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Cause No. 11-cv-1047 DRH (S.D. Ill.) (August 27, 2012).
Arthur J. Martin: 1947 – 2012
With shattered hearts, we are informing our clients and friends of the firm of the sudden and tragic death of our wonderful partner and friend, Art Martin. Art died of a sudden heart attack on Saturday, August 11, 2012, while bicycle riding with his beloved wife, Janine.
On Friday, August 17, there will be a visitation with the family at the Lupton Chapel, 7233 Delmar Blvd., University City, Missouri from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. On Saturday, August 18, beginning at 2:00 p.m., the funeral will take place at Christ the King Catholic Church, 7324 Balson Ave. at Purdue, University City.
In lieu of flowers, memorials appreciated to:
Women in Charge, 1483 82nd Blvd, St. Louis, Missouri 63132, or
The Arthur J. Martin Scholarship, Saint Louis University School of Law, 3700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, Mo. 63108
We are committed to continuing Art’s legacy of dedication to his clients and the labor movement, principled and creative representation, and yes, his incomparable sense of humor and friendship.
In a recent decision, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the summary statement, fiscal note, and fiscal note summary for a proposed initiative petition seeking to increase Missouri’s minimum wage. Opponents had filed a lawsuit challenging the measure’s official ballot title, claiming it to be insufficient and unfair. Law firm attorneys Loretta Haggard and Chris Grant first successfully fought for the right of client Missouri Jobs with Justice to intervene in the matter in support of the petition. See Allred v. Carnahan, No. WD74870 (Mo. App., April 2, 2012). They then presented evidence at trial, and briefed and argued the matter before the Missouri Supreme Court, on the side of the Secretary of State and Auditor, and to protect the current official ballot title.
The Court’s July 31, 2012 decision begins by noting the protections afforded Missouri citizens in the initiative petition process: “Nothing in our constitution so closely models participatory democracy in its pure form.” The Court rejected the opponents’ claims, and held the summary statement, fiscal note, and fiscal note summary for the minimum wage initiative petition to be sufficient and fair. The Court also upheld the authority of the State Auditor to draft a fiscal note for an initiative petition. See Brown v. Carnahan, No. SC92582 (Mo. July 31, 2012).
Unions, progressive groups, and workers are increasingly using the initiative petition process to enact legislation to achieve their goals. The Supreme Court’s decision sets a fair standard for citizens to exercise their right to put important policy matters to a vote.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner regularly assists clients with initiative petitions. We can help you navigate the complex world of campaign finance, non-profit law, IRS regulations, and administrative law surrounding electoral matters. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call.
2012 “Best Lawyers”
Congratulations to the Schuchat, Cook & Werner attorneys who were selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America.”
This year’s “Best Lawyers” are:
- James K. Cook (Employment Law)
- Charles A. Werner (Employment Law)
- Christopher T. Hexter (Employment Law)
- Marilyn S. Teitelbaum (Employment Law)
- Jim Singer(Employee Benefits/ERISA)
- Sally E. Barker (Employment Law)
- Arthur J. Martin (Employment Law)
- George O. Suggs (Employment Law)
Attorneys are selected for “The Best Lawyers in America” list based on the vote of their peers.
Arthur J. Martin testified before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Education and The Workforce regarding the National Labor Relations Board, the Boeing case, and other recent developments in labor law. Art was invited to attend by US Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Democratic member of the Committee, and was the sole witness to testify in defense of efforts of the NLRB to better protect workers’ rights.
You can view the entire hearing below. Art’s testimony begins at time mark 25:16 and ends at 30:38. Art later answers questions from various representatives.
View video here
The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners reached an historic milestone by signing the first collective bargaining agreement in the police department’s 203 year history.
The three-year contract, covering approximately 1000 patrol and probationary officers under the rank of sergeant, is the culmination of 43 years of work by SLPOA. The Fraternal Order of Police affiliate was formed in 1968 with the express purpose of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement for its members.
The contract was ratified with 95% of the officers voting in favor on May 25, 2011, and approved by the Board on May 10. The agreement features mediation and binding arbitration concerning grievances and contact renegotiations, and restores funding for a previously frozen salary matrix. It also grants seniority rights, preserves current vacation, holiday and sick-leave benefits for officers, and grandfathers current officers on the city’s residency requirement.
Police officers in Missouri have been battling for collective bargaining rights for over 50 years but were prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining until 2007 when the Missouri Supreme Court reversed two long-standing rulings.
The decision in Independence-National Education Association v. Independence School District opened up the avenue of collective bargaining to all public sector employees. The Missouri Supreme Court overruled two earlier Supreme Court decisions, City of Springfield v. Clouse and Sumter v. City of Moberly, which effectively banned union collective bargaining for public sector employees. The Court held that the plain language of the article, “employees shall have to right to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing,” applied to public employees. The Court also held that when an agreement is reached by the public employer and the employee group, the agreement is binding on both sides.
Sally Barker, an attorney at Schuchat, Cook & Werner who focuses on Labor and Public Sector law and represented the prevailing unions in Independence, represented SLPOA in the contract negotiations.
Partner Chris Grant testified before the National Labor Relations Board on July 19, 2011 regarding proposed new rules for union elections. Chris was one of several attorneys from outside, union-side firms invited to attend. Management attorneys, employers, unions, non-profits, and workers also testified.
Chris spoke in support of proposed changes to the Labor Board’s union election procedures. He noted problems with the current process, which can be manipulated by employers to create delay. He also testified about the stress that long hearings and overdue elections put on employees. The new rules will eliminate “choke points” for delay, and will allow employees to promptly exercise their right to vote for whether they want union representation.
If you have any questions about the union election process and the NLRB’s proposed new rules, feel free to contact Chris or any other attorney at our office.
Two Schuchat, Cook & Werner attorneys were recently featured in the “ABA Journal” for their volunteer work for Ready Readers — http://readyreaders-stlouis.com — a St. Louis-based non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring children from low-income communities to become avid readers. Matthew Leppert (left rear in photo) and Christopher Hexter (right rear) read to a preschool class every week at Jefferson Head Start in St. Louis, Missouri.
Congrats on the recognition, Matt and Chris!
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is pleased to announce that Clare R. Behrle has
become a partner in the firm effective January, 2011.
Licensed to practice law in Missouri and Illinois, Clare is a member of the firm’s
workers’ compensation team. She works all aspects of workers’ compensation
practice, including trials, arbitrations, and appeals, handling cases in Missouri
Prior to joining the firm, Clare worked at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company as
manager for their Illinois workers’ compensation team. She received her juris
doctor from St. Louis University School of Law in 1991, and was an assistant
editor of the St. Louis University Law Journal. She received her BA from
Columbia College, MO., in 1982.
Clare is a member of the Missouri Bar, the Illinois Bar, and the Bar Association of
Metropolitan St. Louis.
Clare makes a great addition to the firm as partner. She is happy to answer your
questions about workers’ compensation.
Six Schuchat, Cook & Werner attorneys have been selected as 2010 Missouri
The attorneys are:
- Christopher T. Hexter
- Marilyn S. Teitelbaum
- Jim Singer
- Sally E. Barker
- Arthur J. Martin
- George O. Suggs
“Super Lawyer” candidates go through a three phase selection process. Once
the candidate pool is finalized, each candidate is evaluated based on 12
indicators of professional achievement, and is peer reviewed in their primary
areas of practice.
Schuchat, Cook & Werner is a full-service labor law firm. Our Super Lawyers are
nationally recognized for their work representing unions, employee benefit plans,
individual workers, and highly-compensated executives. They have years of
experience in their fields, and are dedicated to seeking justice on your behalf.
Contact us to speak to one of the firm’s lawyers if you have a legal concern.
The choice of a lawyer is important and should not be based solely on