In the Matter of a Petition for Determination of an Appropriate Unit and Certification as Exclusive Representative Service Employees International Union, Local 284, South St. Paul, Minnesota, Respondent,
University of Minnesota, Unit 8, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Relator, Bureau of Mediation Services, Respondent.
of Mediation Services File No. 16PCE0644
Brendan D. Cummins, Cummins & Cummins, LLP, Minneapolis,
Minnesota (for respondent Service Employees International
Union, Local 284)
G. Schanfield, Krista A.P. Hatcher, Pari I. McGarraugh,
Fredrikson & Byron P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota; and
Douglas R. Peterson, Shelley Carthen Watson, University of
Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for relator University of
Minnesota, Unit 8, Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Swanson, Attorney General, Caitlin M. Micko, Kelly S. Kemp,
Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for
respondent Bureau of Mediation Services)
Margaret A. Luger-Nikolai, Nicole M. Blissenbach, David M.
Aron, Education Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota (for amicus
curiae Education Minnesota)
Jessica L. Roe, Shannon N.L. Cooper, Roe Law Group, PLLC,
Minneapolis, Minnesota (for amicus curiae University of
Minnesota Faculty Excellence)
Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Connolly,
Judge; and Jesson, Judge.
the legislature has clearly defined bargaining units under
the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn.
Stat. §§ 179A.01-.25 (2016), the Bureau of
Mediation Services lacks authority to reassign employee
classifications to bargaining units unless those
classifications have been significantly modified.
legislature created 13 specific bargaining units for relator
University of Minnesota in Minnesota Statutes section
179A.11, a portion of PELRA. This appeal centers on a dispute
over which of the 13 bargaining units is appropriate for
university employees classified as lecturers, senior
lecturers, teaching specialists, and senior teaching
specialists. The university contends that they are
appropriately placed in the academic professional and
administrative staff unit, Unit 11, while respondent union
argues that, given their instructional duties, they should be
assigned to the instructional unit, Unit 8. The union,
Service Employees International, Local 284 (SEIU), seeks to
represent the employees in Unit 8 and, in conjunction with
that unionization effort, petitioned the Commissioner of the
Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) to assign them there.
Finding that the lecturers and teaching specialists shared a
community of interest with the employees in Unit 8 and that
their occupational content had been significantly modified
since the initial legislative unit configuration, BMS did so.
The university challenges this unit-determination order in
this certiorari appeal. Because the plain language of PELRA
excludes the employees in these disputed classifications from
Unit 8, and because the occupational job content of these
employees have not been significantly modified, we conclude
that BMS lacked the statutory authority to make this
assignment. We therefore reverse.
January 2016, respondent SEIU filed a petition with BMS
seeking to represent employees in Unit 8, the Twin Cities
Instructional Unit at the University of Minnesota.
See Minn. Stat. § 179A.11, subd. 1(8) (defining
Unit 8). In connection with that petition, the union also
requested that BMS's commissioner assign to Unit 8 ten
classifications of employees, including lecturer, senior
lecturer, teaching specialist, and senior teaching specialist
("lecturers and teaching specialists" or the
"disputed classifications"). It asserted that
the commissioner was required to assign these classifications
to the appropriate bargaining unit because they had not been
previously assigned, or that, even if they had previously
been assigned, their occupational content had been
significantly modified. See Minn. Stat. §
179A.10, subd. 4. The union further contended that Unit 8 was
the appropriate bargaining unit because the lecturers and
teaching specialists shared a community of interest with the
employees in that unit. See id. The university,
however, objected to the proposed assignment of the lecturers
and teaching specialists to Unit 8, arguing that the
statutory list of positions for Unit 8 did not include these
classifications because they lacked academic rank,
see Minn. Stat. § 179A.11, subd. 1(8), and as a
result the lecturers and teaching specialists were
necessarily assigned to Unit 11, the Academic Professional
and Administrative Staff Unit. See Minn. Stat.
§§ 179A.10, subd. 4; .11, subd. 1(11) (defining
Unit 11). Because these classifications were
assigned by the legislature, the university maintained, the
commissioner lacked authority to assign them to Unit 8.
March 2016, BMS issued a pre-hearing order determining that
the lecturers and teaching specialists had not been
previously assigned pursuant to statute. It therefore
concluded that the commissioner had authority to assign those
classifications to bargaining units, and it ordered a hearing
to determine the appropriate unit assignment for those
positions. In September 2016, following a 13-day hearing, BMS
issued an order expanding Unit 8 to include the disputed
classifications. It found that, in 2005, the university had
significantly modified the occupational content of the
disputed classifications, reinforcing BMS's previous
conclusion that the commissioner had authority to determine
their unit assignment because they had not been previously
assigned to a bargaining unit. See Minn. Stat.
§ 179A.10, subd. 4. BMS therefore examined the record
and further determined that the disputed classifications
shared a community of interest with the existing
classifications in Unit 8. It then ordered that the disputed
classifications be included in the Unit 8 bargaining unit.
The university requested reconsideration, which was denied.
This certiorari appeal follows.
BMS have authority to assign the four disputed
classifications to Unit 8 under Minnesota Statutes section
179A.10, subdivision 4, because they were not previously
the disputed reclassifications were previously assigned, did
BMS have the authority to reassign them because their
occupational content had been ...