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.

To have a chance to succeed on the wage issue, we needed to be able to argue some kind of internal or external inequity.  For example, if we could show that other States or the metro counties were paying more than the State for the kind of work MMA MnDOT supervisors were being doing, we would have an “inequity” that could be presented to the Arbitrator. Though I found some evidence of this external wage shortcoming, I didn’t think I had enough evidence of to make a difference. Though we did end up arguing this point, the Arbitrator ultimately rejected this argument as unsupported by the evidence.

In preparing I also looked to see if there was evidence of an internal inequity. One way of showing an internal inequity was to find that the wage settlement offers being made to other bargaining units or to the unrepresented employees were higher than what we were being offered.  But the other unions had received and were settling for the same offer being presented to MMA, so it was clear that we had no argument on this point.[1]

As I looked and re looked at the wage issue searching for something I could use with any chance of success, one internal wage “inequity” did start rising to the surface and the more I studied and considered it, the more convinced I was that it was to be the argument we would use at the hearing. In 1979 and for years before, the State’s wage offers to its employees and the unions were consistently split so that some of the wage increases were given out as cents per hour (through the operation of a capped cost of living formula) and some wages were given out as a percentage.  Thus in the high inflation period we are talking about here, 1977-1979[2], the bargaining contracts with other units and the unrepresented were settled giving a cost of living increase in 1979 of $.47/hour and 1980 of $.39/hour to all employees regardless of their wage rate and in 1979 a 4.5% across the board increase for employees.  This method of giving out wage increases and in particular, the manner in which the cost-of-living formula was constructed had the effect of slowly compressing the wages of supervisors with the wages of those they supervised. By example, if the cost of living increase in 1979 was $.47/ hour, as it was, that would be a 4.7% increase for a supervisor making $10/hour, but for an employee under that supervisor making $7/hour, it would be a 6.7% increase.[3] As you can imagine, even over a few years this would result in substantial convergence of the wages of the supervisor and those he or she supervised at least if you measured the differences in a percentage.

Finally, we thought we had a persuasive argument for an internal inequity.


This then became the argument that we put forward time and time again in the hearing.  While it seemed the State didn’t care for our argument, at least the Arbitrator heard it. For at one point in the hearing, the Arbitrator turned to the State representative presenting their case, and asked him for his answer to my argument about compression.

Not long after the hearing was completed and the written briefs had been submitted, the decision arrived.   Wow, with very little calculation from the Award, it was clear that a huge victory had been won.[4]  While in the Opinion, the Arbitrator does not explicitly say that he agreed with our argument on compression, in substance it certainly appeared he did. In his decision, he recalculated the way that the cost of living formula was to be applied and the result was to give all MNDOT supervisors  not more cents per hour but 7% more than any other employee or bargaining unit got during the 1979-81 period.

On the question of wage compression, the Arbitrator wrote the following sentence for all of us to ponder:

“The inequity from compression that may result by the flat rate increases which occur through the present formula [the cost of living formula] can be adjusted upon negotiation or arbitration of the new contract beginning July 1981 in a manner similar to that used in this award.”

The direct result of the Award was that the compression of MNDOT supervisors’ wages were halted and that earlier compression was actually reversed to the tune of the extra 7% we had won in the decision. The Award also seemed to forecast that the State would need to change the way it applied the cost of living formula and, that in the future wages would be paid out as a percentage not cents per hour. Both predictions were to prove correct.

The Award certainly set off shock waves. David had slain Goliath. And David, the MnDOT supervisors, could not have been happier. Meanwhile the State would have to have wondered what they needed to do with their central wage structure in the future as the Award had left it in ashes. Certainly, if MMA was again faced in the 1981 bargaining with a wage offer that caused compression, then it would have turned to arbitration again using the Gallagher Decision as a lever and a lance. At that time, in 1979, however, all I thought about is that I had a happy client and that I was one happy attorney. Read Full Article


Are you curious about how MMA became the exclusive representative of middle management supervisors in the State of Minnesota? Did you know MMA set a precedent by becoming the first association to represent all supervisors in the State of Minnesota?

Read the first installment of a two part series written by MMA’s lawyer, Ron Rollins. Ron was instrumental in winning the interest arbitration that resulted in an above average settlement for the first contract for MMA.

Ron Rollins MMA Lawyer

Ron Rollins MMA Lawyer

Ron Rollins has practiced exclusively in the area of labor law for over thirty years.  He has represented diverse labor groups in both the public and private sectors in all areas of labor relations activities. His clients have included professors, school principals, registered nurses, teamsters, clerical employees, meatpackers, social workers, city and county and school employees, line production workers, football players, symphony players and the newspaper reporters in both cities.

He was involved in the football players strike in the 70’s, and the Hormel strike representing P-9 in the 80’s.

Ron and his law firm currently represent supervisory bargaining units at the Met Council and in the Counties of Hennepin, Carver, Scott, and Dakota, and in the City of St Paul, and also in the Minneapolis and St Paul School Districts.

Their current clients also include non-supervisory School Units in Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Bloomington, and Burnsville, County units in Olmsted and Winona and the Newspaper Guild of the Twin Cities.

He has spoken at labor conferences and seminars on various labor topics and has served as an adjunct law school professor at Hamline University School of Law teaching labor arbitration and bargaining.

He received his BA from Bowdoin College and his JD from the University of Wisconsin with honors.

He is married with 3 daughters, one of which is his law partner. His law firm is Rollins, Martin & Button. He is also on the Board of Affinity Plus.

His personal interests include golf, ancient history, early colonial New England, solving problems, people and travel.



Former MMA President Richard Swenson Passes Away October 22, 2014

Richard Swenson  MMA President 1994-2004

Richard Swenson
MMA President 1994-2004

Richard Swenson, former MMA President, passed away Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at the age of 68. While Richard served as President on the Board of Directors he appointed the negotiation teams and led negotiations for four contracts. Richard was a supervisor with the DEED office in Willmar, MN until his retirement in 2005.

Services were held at Eagle Lake Lutheran Church rural Willmar, Minnesota on Tuesday, October 28th. Richard was awarded Military Honors from American Legion Post #167 in Willmar, MN.

In addition to the many family and friends present at the service, attending were MMA Executive Director Gary Kloos, former President Karen Wagner, MMA Lawyers Ron Rollins and Zaidee Martin, former Executive Director Gary Denault, and former Board and Executive Committee members,Milo Degeest and Foster Hudson.

Foster Hudson, Gary NeNalt, Ron Rollins, Karen Wagner, Gary Kloos, Zaidee Martin, and Milo Degeest

Foster Hudson, Gary Denault Ron Rollins, Karen Wagner, Gary Kloos, Zaidee Martin, and Milo Degeest

MMA extends our condolences to Richard’s wife, Linda Swenson, children: Allan (and Krista) Swenson and Scott (and Kris) Swenson, his seven grandchildren, mother, siblings, many nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives and friends.

MMA Leadership Retreat Summary

What does the Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Zoo have in common?

MMA supervisors from both agencies attended this year’s MMA Leadership Retreat!

Under the leadership of Gary Kloos, former MMA President and now Executive Director, and the MMA Executive Committee, this year’s MMA leadership retreat took on a new purpose and focus. In addition to MMA Board members, invitations were extended to Local Association leadership and other involved MMA members. As a result there were 58 attendees representing 17 Agencies from across the State.

The theme of this year’s retreat was ‘Mapping the Future of MMA’. In addition to two excellent sessions on leadership and retirement planning, an afternoon was devoted to engaging with members specifically to identify the priorities and goals MMA should have going forward. After a rich discussion and a follow-up survey the top priorities proposed for MMA  are:

  1. Negotiations
  2. Developing MMA’s Identify
  3. Providing general support to Members
  4. Articulating the value of MMA
  5. Providing representation
  6. Developing and implementing a communications plan, and
  7. Raising MMA’s visibility

Immediately after the retreat the staff and Board President met to synthesize and process the experience, and the ideas and thoughts of those attending. Next steps will be developed by the Board and staff in the coming weeks and months. Check back here for updates on our progress.

Karen  Wagner, MMA Past President and Board Member Retires!

Karen Wagner MMA President 2004-2013

Karen Wagner
MMA President 2004-2013

Karen Wagner, longtime MMA Board member and former President has retired effective October 1, 2014 after 37 years of service to the State of Minnesota. Karen was Manager at the Mankato Job Service Office where she started as supervisor in the mid ‘90s. Prior to that, she was Director of the Work and Training Center in West St. Paul. It was in that position that she met her supervisor, Gary Denault, who later became a MMA Executive Director.

It was Richard Swenson, Job Service Manager in Willmar, who recruited her to serve on the MMA Board of Directors in 1996, which happened to be a contract negotiation year. Read Full Article

New Leadership for MMA!

The MMA Board of Directors is pleased and excited to announce new leadership for MMA. The MMA Board hired a search consultant in August to assist the Executive Committee in hiring a new Executive Director for MMA. The consultant then conducted an assessment of potential interested internal candidates and made a recommendation to the Board hiring committee, which was then forwarded and acted on by the full Board.

Gary Kloos, currently MMA President, has been selected and has accepted the position of Executive Director of MMA effective November 5th.

Gary Kloos MMA Executive Director

Gary Kloos
MMA Executive Director

Gary comes with a wealth of experience as a supervisor with the State of Minnesota in the Department of Transportation. As president of MMA, Gary was recently featured in our ‘Getting to Know you’ column which you can review here if you missed it.

The MMA Board is also pleased to announce, as per our constitution, that Kathy Hanson, MMA Vice President, will now assume the role and duties of President.

Kathy has served on the Board of Directors since April of 1993 and has served as Treasurer since April of 2003. Please see the related article for more information about Kathy.

The MMA Board and Staff are excited and energized to continue the work of MMA with our new leaders.