MMA and Its Beginnings: Victories Snatched From the Jaws of Defeat (continued)


Part 2: Friday Night Fights

The first installment of MMA’s history discussed MMA MN/DOT’s beginnings and its arbitration victory on wages in resolving its 1979-81 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the State. The year 1979 turned out to be a tumultuous one for State labor relations. Coming into the year, the State negotiated and administered 33 collective bargaining agreements covering 116 bargaining units involving 20 different unions, MMA being but one small union in that big picture. As would typically occur, AFSCME, which represented by far the largest number of employees, settled first, in March, 1979, with general wage increases for its 1979-81 contract totaling about 14% over the two years. (Recall that these were the years where inflation, and thus all other rates, were running very high. Mortgage rates, for example, were 11% in May 1979 and peaked at 18% in October 1981).

When the State refused to bargain a different wage with the unions that came after AFSCME, putting forth in the unions’ views a “take it or leave it” position, two of the unions, Minnesota Community College Faculty and the BCA Forensic Scientists, went to Court alleging the State had committed an unfair labor practice by engaging in rigid bargaining. After they got a temporary injunction prohibiting the State’s inflexible bargaining position, bargaining in subsequent months lead to voluntary settlements with these two groups, each settlement in excess of the AFSCME wage settlement for the same two years. Other union groups followed, including MMA, with its own higher arbitrated settlement. These events pushed the State to reopen the just-ratified AFSCME contract to consider additional increases in it as a way of making up somewhat for the higher later settlements with other unions. Finally, the State and AFSCME agreed that every employee in AFSCME units would receive additional money for the two years in the form of lump sum bonuses.

With this chaotic labor relations year at the State, it should not have been surprising that the legislature started re-looking at the Public Employment Relations Statute (“PELRA”, Minn. State Sec. 179A), with a view especially to addressing the proliferation of bargaining units at the State. As a result of its deliberations on this issue and before it adjourned in May 1979, the legislature established a new Joint Committee called the Legislative Commission on Employee Relations (now called the Subcommittee on Employee Relations), and it directed the Commission to review the number and composition of State bargaining units and report back to the legislature at its next legislative session due to commence in January 1980. One recommendation the Commission soon received from public employer representatives was that the law should be changed to eliminate the supervisors’ right to bargain or to have any union representation as was true in the private sector under the National Labor Relations Act. MMA MN/DOT argued to the Commission that State employees’ supervisory rights should be maintained and submitted a paper supporting that position.


Position paper presented to the Legislative Commission on Employee Relations by MMA/MNDOT December 1979

After receiving the report of the Commission in early 1980, the legislature made significant changes to PELRA with the result that 116 department based State bargaining units were reduced to 16 occupational based units. While these statutory changes had the effect of enhancing any victorious unions’ bargaining power by consolidating the bargaining units, the statutory changes also established the Department of Labor Relations (“DOER”) and gave it the authority to represent the State in all bargaining with the consolidated units and to resolve all grievances, this in an attempt to balance the increased power of the unions under the changed statute.

One of the units established by the new legislation was described as the “supervisory employees unit”. It would turn out that this supervisory employees unit would include about 2500 supervisors, though early in 1980 we thought the number would be higher. While the amended statute provided for the availability of bargaining for supervisors by creating a State wide supervisory unit, that right came with restrictions. The law prohibited supervisors from going on strike but substituted instead a right to go to arbitration on its final contract terms. It also introduced a limitation that prohibited any union representing a non-supervisory bargaining unit at the State, like AFSCME did, from also representing the supervisory unit.
But while the good news was that supervisory rights were available for State supervisors, it looked like a pyrrhic victory, as at the time there was serious doubt as to whether any one could win a statewide election of all supervisors. At a minimum, this change in the law meant that MMA MN/DOT would cease to exist when its contract with the State expired in June 1981. AFSCME supervisory units in Corrections, DEED and DNR, and the IMAGE independent union in Revenue were to suffer the same fate as MMA/MNDOT, that is compete to win it all in a global supervisory election of 2500 supervisors or be dissolved.

A strategy was developed to win the right to represent all State supervisors…

After deliberating the issue, MMA MN/DOT decided to try to get on the ballot for an election of all supervisors and committed some crucial money for the cost of mailing to aid the effort. I was fully involved as was Gene Aune, MMA MN/DOT president, and to a lesser extent the executive board. During late 1979 and most all of 1980, we operated out of Gene’s townhome in Woodbury and my law office in Minneapolis. At the same time as we were gearing up to try to get an election, AFSCME formed a new group called the Minnesota Supervisors Union (“MSU”), supposedly independent of AFSCME, to do what we were doing but in competition with MMA.

In order to force a vote on the supervisory unit, MMA would have to get signed support from at least 750 supervisors saying they wanted MMA to represent them for bargaining (by Minnesota Statute, to get an election, an interested union needed signed support from 30% of the proposed bargaining unit of 2500 or, in this case, 750 supervisors). This would prove to be a formidable task as no one, including the State, had a list of supervisors so there was no way to reach out to most of them. Nonetheless, on behalf of the new MMA, now recreated on paper as an organization able to represent all State supervisors, I formally requested of the State a list of the names of all supervisors with their job classes and office addresses.

Some time later I was informed that I could pick up the information I had requested at the office of Jim Geissner, the State Negotiator. When I met him in his office and asked for the information, he pointed to a box in the corner of his office and said the names and information I requested were in there. The box contained 2 feet and 10 pounds worth of computer printout with the name, classification and office address of every State employee not just supervisors; over 30,000 names in alphabetical order were on the list. No sorting out of supervisors from that list had been done at that point by the State, or so I was supposed to believe. But I took the box and then asked him for a State phone book, which I thought might be helpful as it would contain phone numbers of some of the supervisors at the State. I remember him picking one up from his desk and looking at the inside cover. “Sorry”, he said, “State property”. Anyway, I grabbed a State phone book from the waiting room on the way out. Five days and many hours later, I had developed a list of supervisors that might only have been in the 80% “right” category, but at least it was enough for a first mailing to try to get the signed support we so badly needed.

Also, all throughout this time period, we were meeting with supervisors all over the State whenever and wherever we could, trying to convince them that they should support MMA. We were spending all our energies trying to get the signed cards of support we needed to call for an election and be on the ballot. Of course, as we met supervisors to get their signed support, we were also explaining why they should support us if there was an election. Out of the meetings, it did seem clear that supervisors recognized that they needed help with wages and benefits. Also, they did appear to appreciate MMA’s independent non-affiliated status and MMA MN/DOT’s success in 1979 in arbitrating a much higher wage increase for MN DOT supervisors than either AFSCME or the other supervisors had gotten. Read Full Article

Contract Negotiations Update

The appointments to the MMA Negotiations Team for the 2015-2017 MMA contract have been finalized.

The MMA Executive Committee approved the following supervisors to represent MMA members at this year’s contract negotiations:

Lyla Burkman, Health
Jeff Cassidy, Transportation
Bruce Daniel, Transportation
Randy Gordon, Human Services
Dean Hagen, Corrections
Kathy Hanson, Labor & Industry
Lonnie Lilly, Natural Resources
Jim Manson, Revenue
Kevin Monio, Corrections
Peter O’Grady, MnSCU
Michael Parker, Public Safety
Mark Parsley, MnSCU
James Pointer, Natural Resources
Rob Rose, Human Services
Shelly Siegel, MnSCU
Lance Voegele-Allore, Human Services

Gary Kloos, Robyn Cousin, My Lee and MMA Attorneys Ron Rollins, Zaidee Martin and Joel Button will provide staff support to the Negotiations Team.

The Negotiations Team will review all the contract survey data and associated comments received from the MMA members and will draft MMA’s contract proposals in preparation for face-to-face negotiations with the State’s management representatives. We anticipate that negotiations will begin earlier than the last round of negotiations; however, initial meeting dates have yet to be scheduled.

Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

MMA Scholarship Applicants

Just a reminder that from January 15th to March 15, 2015, MMA members and/or their dependents may apply for MMA scholarships. Any MMA member and/or dependent interested in applying for a scholarship should visit the Scholarship Program section of the MMA website to review scholarship information and to obtain a scholarship application.


Please note: Supervisors who are not full members must submit a signed membership card with their scholarship application or sign up electronically by clicking on “Join Us” on the MMA website and submitting the required information before the scholarship application is received by MMA.

MMA Joins the Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Board

MMA is pleased to announce that Robyn Cousin, MMA business representative, has joined the Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Board.

The Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship was created in honor of Nellie Stone Johnson, known and recognized for her pioneering work in the labor movement in Minnesota. Nellie had a long and distinguished record of public service in support of the advancement of minority concerns, the rights of workers, and equal opportunities for all people. Her life was a series of “firsts.” As a leader of organized labor in the 1930s and 1940s, she was the first woman vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council and the first woman vice-president of Local 665 Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union. She was also the first black person elected to citywide office in Minneapolis when she won a seat on the Library Board in 1945.

The scholarship program was established by the former Minnesota State University System in 1989, as a part of the universities’ cultural diversity initiative and is now administered by the independent Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Board. The Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship is available to racial minority students from Union families attending or planning to attend one of the 31 technical colleges, community colleges and/or state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

Nellie Stone Johnson Upcoming Activities

Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship Annual Dinner

MMA will also be participating in the 2015 Nellie Stone Johnson Scholarship dinner on Thursday, March 26, 2014 at the Prom Center in Oakdale. The annual dinner is an event to raise funds for the scholarship program recipients. Higher education supporters, labor union activists, legislators and students participate in the event. The dinner honors student recipients and our union sister, Nellie Stone Johnson.

Nellie Stone Johnson Capitol Bust Initiative

The 2014 Legislature and the Governor authorized placing a bust of Nellie Stone Johnson, a nationally-renowned labor and civil rights leader, in a prominent spot in the Capitol. However, $30,000 must be raised to match the amount appropriated by the legislature to make this dream a reality. The Nellie Stone Johnson Bust Committee is half way there thanks in part to a contribution of $3000 from MMA which has joined the campaign.

This will be an opportunity to permanently remind Capitol visitors’, including school children, of the important role labor has played in our state. Nellie Stone Johnson is an excellent choice as she represents many ‘firsts’

  • First prominent labor leader
  • First woman activist/leader
  • First education leader
  • First Minnesota-born African American civil rights leader

MMA is proud to be a sponsor and contributor to what will be a permanent reminder of the important role of labor to the health and vitality of our state.

MMA and its Beginning: Victories Snatched from the Jaws of Defeat

Part 1 The Prequel

In 1979 Middle Management Association, MMA, was a small Department of Transportation Local representing about 200 supervisors.  MMA had bargained one prior contract with the State and was in the midst of bargaining for a 1979-1981 collective bargaining agreement. Bargaining had not gone well and MMA had hired a Labor Relations Attorney to help them.  Having been unsuccessful in reaching a voluntary agreement with the State, MMA exercised its right to request arbitration of its contract dispute.

Arbitrator Tom Gallagher was selected to hear and decide the dispute and a hearing date was set for May 3, 1979.  A couple weeks before the date of the hearing MMA’s labor relations attorney informed them that he now had a conflict of interest and that he could not represent MMA in the upcoming arbitration hearing.  At that point MMA found me and I agreed to help.

I met with the MMA Bargaining Committee, which included Gene Aune, Jim Maas and Jeanne Chasteen, and others whose names I can’t now recall, to prepare the case. Although there were several unresolved issues, it was clear that the biggest issue by far was wages. Read Full Article