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Minnesota streamlines collective bargaining process for public sector workers

Minnesota in many ways is comparable with Wisconsin in terms of size, population, climate, demographics and industry mix. In other ways it differs: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has not busted government worker unions the way Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has.

Guess which state is prospering and which state is struggling? Yup, Minnesota is outperforming Wisconsin in job creation and in economic growth, and now it's doing something constructive with its government worker unions.

Minnesota has a new law on the books that streamlines the collective bargaining process for government workers.

On May 9, Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation establishing a Public Employee Relations Board. It was one of the most significant amendments to the state Public Employment Labor Relations Act since its adoption in the early 1970s. 

The new board will hear unfair labor practice cases previously handled in the court system. Proponents, which include many public employee unions, said this change will save both time and money for taxpayers and public workers. 

The new process “is a useful tool for labor and management – without breaking the bank,” said Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, the largest state employees’ union. 

Unfair labor practices are violations of the state public employee labor law. 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.

We expect Minnesota will continue to outperform Wisconsin in the months to come.

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