Minnesota District Court dismisses Republican lawmakers’ challenge to state collective agreement
On July 19, Minnesota’s Second Judicial District Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by two Minnesota Republicans against the state’s Office of Management and Budget. Lawmakers alleged that the state collective agreement violated state law because it was implemented without being ratified by both houses of the state legislature.
The plaintiffs are Minnesota State Representative Marion O’Neill (R) and State Senator Mark Koran (R) in an official and individual capacity. The lawyers of the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) represent the complainants. The UMLC has declared that its “mission is to prosecute for freedom to protect against government excesses, special interest programs, constitutional violations and corruption and abuse by public unions. “.
The defendants are the Management and Budget Commissioner of Minnesota, Jim Schowalter, in his official capacity and Minnesota Management and Budget, who is “responsible for producing the state budget, economic forecasting, wage bill and human resource policies for the state enterprise”. The public prosecutors represented the defendants.
What’s the problem
The complainants filed their complaint on December 30, 2020, before the court of the second judicial district. UMLC noted: â€œUnder Minnesota law, a majority vote of the House and Senate must approve state employee union bargaining agreements for them to be legally implemented. In this case, MMB implemented the agreement even though the Senate did not approve the bill. Representative O’Neill and Senator Coran are asking for a writ of quo warranto or a declaratory judgment to overturn the invalid negotiating agreements.
In a March 30 memorandum in support of their nonsuit motion, lawyers for the defendants said: â€œTwo lawmakers are seeking to reverse the legally negotiated and legally approved wage increases for approximately 50,000 employees in the State. â€¦ Legally, however, this case is straightforward. The petitioners’ representative, Marion O’Neill, and Senator Mark Koran do not have standing to pursue these claims. Government employee organizations filed an amicus curiae brief on April 7. The groups said that “while waiting for the contested collective agreements (‘CBAs’) to be in force for many months before filing a complaint, the claimants assured that granting the relief sought would have the maximum impact. disruptive on the established conditions of the CBA and on the collective bargaining process under the Public Service Labor Relations Actâ€¦ Therefore, the unreasonable delay of the applicants in asserting their alleged rights would cause significant prejudice to negotiating parties and to the public if relief has been requested.
A hearing was held on April 27.
How the court ruled
On July 19, Judge Lezlie Ott Marek, appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2010, wrote:
The statute of the legislator is extremely restricted. Members of a legislature have standing to prosecute in their capacity as legislators only when they demonstrate personal harm to them, as opposed to institutional harm to the legislative body as a whole. â€¦ When a legislator fails to establish his personal status by annulling a vote, the alleged damage is institutional. â€¦ Here, the applicants allege harm which belongs to the legislature as a whole, and not to them as individuals. …
No court in Minnesota has ever found that individual taxpayers have standing to seek an order directing the implementation of negotiated collective agreements. In this case, to extend the taxpayer quality doctrine to the facts of this case would constitute bad public policy on labor relations. The goal of [the Public Employment Labor Relations Act] is to â€œpromote orderly and constructive relations between all public employers and their employeesâ€. â€¦ The amicus brief filed by the unions rightly notes that allowing the continuation of this action would interfere with the â€œdelineation of separate and distinct roles for the commissioner and for the legislature in order to establish an orderly and constructive system of negotiation collective â€. …
For all the reasons set out in this document, the Petitioners do not have standing to bring this legal action, as legislators or taxpayers, and the Petition should be dismissed on this preliminary basis alone. Since the motion to dismiss has been granted, the petitioners’ request for a temporary injunction has been raised and does not require a decision.
The name and number of the file are O’Neill v. Schowalter (62-CV-20-5865). Case documents can be viewed here.
Julie Bleyhl, Executive Director of AFSCME Conseil 5, noted, “We are pleased that the courts have dismissed the damaging and blatant lawsuitâ€¦ which would have directly harmed tens of thousands of government employees and our rights as workers. â€¦ As several thousand of our members are currently negotiating their next contract, it is clear that our union members will continue to fight for contracts that treat all workers with the respect and dignity they deserve and demand and uplift all workers in our whole state.
James VF Dickey, Complainants’ Counsel, noted, â€œWe respectfully disagree with Judge Marek’s ruling. â€¦ It is unclear how a Minnesota taxpayer could ever challenge illegal government spending based on the ruling. Dickey said the plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision. An appeal would go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
About Minnesota’s Second Judicial District Court
The Minnesota District Court System handles criminal, civil, and family matters in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. The counties are divided into ten judicial districts. The second judicial district encompasses Ramsey County. The tribunal has 29 judges.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals hears appeals from state district courts, and the Minnesota Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort.
What we read
The big picture
Number of relevant invoices per state
We are currently monitoring 98 pieces of legislation dealing with trade union policy for public sector employees. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates more relevant invoices. Click on here for a complete list of all the invoices we are tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of the sponsor (s)
Recent legislative actions
Below is a full list of relevant legislative measures taken since our last issue.
- Maine LD449: Current law requires public employers and collective bargaining agents to meet within 10 days of receiving written notice of a request for a bargaining meeting. This only applies if the parties have not agreed otherwise in a previous contract. This bill would eliminate that exception.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Postponed to the next session on July 19.
- Maine LD555: This bill would grant the right to strike to most public sector employees. Some public security and justice employees are reportedly not allowed to strike.
- Democratic sponsorship.
- Postponed to the next session on July 19.