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Education Minnesota-Greenway, Local 1330 v. Independent School District No. 316

January 20, 2004

EDUCATION MINNESOTA-GREENWAY, LOCAL 1330, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 316, COLERAINE, MINNESOTA, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



Itasca County District Court File No. C2021906

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The statutory duty to meet and negotiate in good faith prohibits a school district from imposing unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of employment while collective bargaining negotiations are in progress.

Minn. Stat. § 123B.749 (2002), requires a school board, prior to approving a collective bargaining agreement, to determine that the proposed agreement will not cause structural imbalance in the school district's budget, but does not relieve the school district of its statutory duty to meet and negotiate in good faith under the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded; motion to dismiss denied

OPINION

Appellants Education Minnesota-Greenway, Local 1330, and Gary Greniger challenge the district court's grant of summary judgment dismissing appellants' claims that respondents Independent School District No. 316, Coleraine, Minnesota, et al., violated the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 179A.01-179A.25 (2002), by refusing to meet and negotiate in good faith and by failing to provide financial information when requested. Appellants also allege that the district court abused its discretion by failing to strike from the record an unsworn, unverified statement that respondents submitted to the district court. Respondents moved to dismiss part of the appeal, arguing that appellants' brief failed to address one of the grounds for dismissal, appellants failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and the appeal is moot because the parties have now signed a collective bargaining agreement. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand, and deny respondent's motion to dismiss.

FACTS

Appellant Education Minnesota-Greenway, Local 1330, is the exclusive representative under PELRA for a bargaining unit of public school teachers employed by respondent Independent School District No. 316, Coleraine. Appellant Gary Greniger is a teacher and member of the union, and the remaining respondents are the superintendent and school board members of ISD. In this opinion, appellants will be collectively referred to as "the union," and respondents will be collectively referred to as "ISD."

When this lawsuit started in September 2002, the parties were operating under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for the two-year term beginning July 1, 1999, and ending June 30, 2001. By law and by its terms, that CBA remained in effect until the parties reached a new agreement. See Minn. Stat. § 179A.20, subd. 6 (2002). The CBA provided for step increases (based on years of service), lane changes (based on educational achievement), credit pay, longevity pay, and payment of 95% of insurance premiums.*fn2

In April 2001, the union notified ISD of its intent to begin bargaining for the 2001–2003 CBA, but neither the union nor ISD pursued negotiations until late June 2002, at which time a negotiations session was scheduled for August 7, 2002. The union submitted its written proposal on July 12, 2002. ISD submitted its written proposal at the negotiation session. ISD proposed a retroactive freeze on wages and benefits already paid for the 2001–2002 school year, and, for the 2002-2003 school year, a 5% salary reduction, plus a freeze on step increases and lane changes, and a freeze on ISD's monetary contribution to health insurance premiums. ISD explained that the proposal was necessary because it was in statutory operating debt.

Nine days after the first negotiating session, the superintendent sent a letter to all ISD teachers informing them that, effective at the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year, ISD was unilaterally implementing certain monetary aspects of its bargaining proposal. Specifically, the step increases, lane changes, and contributions to health insurance premiums were frozen and would continue at the dollar amounts paid in the 2001-2002 school year. The union forwarded a demand to bargain over the freeze and filed a grievance challenging the freeze as a breach of the CBA.

ISD did not respond to the demand to bargain on the unilateral imposition of the freeze and implemented the freeze. The parties had a second negotiation session on September 13, 2002, and continued to negotiate the 2002–2003 CBA, but ISD kept the freeze in place throughout the negotiations. The union started this lawsuit in late September 2002, alleging two counts of unfair labor practices. Count 1 alleged that the unilateral implementation of the freeze violated ISD's duty to meet and negotiate in good faith. Count 2 related to ISD's failure to provide the union with requested financial information.*fn3 The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on count 1 and ISD moved for summary judgment on count 2. The district court granted ISD's motions and denied the union's motion. This appeal followed. In July 2003, the parties reached agreement on a CBA for the 2001–2003 school years that includes dismissal of the union's grievance. ISD moved to dismiss this appeal, arguing that the union failed to address one of the grounds for summary judgment, the union failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and the case is moot.

ISSUES

Did the district court grant summary judgment in favor of ISD on the basis that the union failed to exhaust its administrative remedies?

Is the union's appeal from dismissal of its claim that ISD failed to meet and negotiate in good faith moot after the parties adopted a new collective bargaining agreement?

Did ISD violate Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(5) (2002), and engage in the unfair labor practice of refusing to meet and negotiate in good faith when it unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of the controlling collective bargaining agreement during negotiations?

Is there a genuine issue of material of fact as to whether the school district committed an unfair labor practice when it failed to immediately provide the union with requested financial information?

Should the unsworn, unverified statement of the Department of Children, Families and Learning's financial ...


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