Minnesota Takes Bold Action to Streamline Unfair Labor Practice Process for Public Employees

From calling out ALEC to pushing hard for union workers to make up the construction workforce on the Vikings new football stadium project, few governors are as worker-friendly as Minnesota’s Mark Dayton. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that Dayton and the Minnesota Democrats have passed a bill streamlining the collective bargaining process for workers in the Land of 1,000 Lakes.

Earlier this month Dayton signed into law the most significant changes to the Public Employee Labor Relations Act since its conception in the 70’s, creating the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). The new board will hear unfair labor practice (ULP) cases similar to the way the NLRB hears such cases for the private sector. The new approach will free up the court system, significantly expedite what can be a grueling process for workers, and save taxpayers money. PERB became necessary in part because of how expensive ULP proceedings have become:

In the years since public employees won bargaining rights with the adoption of PELRA, “the process of bringing charges through district court was very expensive, cumbersome and time consuming,” said Sami Gabriel, president of DRIVE, the Teamsters’ political action organization.

“The typical cost for a labor union to bring a charge was $50,000 to $75,000, and could take years for a decision,” she said.

Taxpayers also were footing a hefty bill, noted Seide. He gave the example of the City of Bloomington, which spent $150,000 in legal fees to fight union organizing by 23 city employees.
In addition to saving money, the board is expected to speed up the process of resolving such disputes.

The new process mirrors the way unfair labor practices are handled in much of the private sector through the National Labor Relations Board.

The board will have three members, one representing management and one representing workers, both appointed by the governor.  The third member will be appointed by the other two members. The board will officially take up duty on July 1st, 2014.

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