public employers violation of Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd.
2(2) (2018), a provision in the Public Employment Labor
Relations Act (PELRA) that prohibits the unfair labor
practice of interfering with the existence of an employee
organization, is not excused because the public employers
interference was a matter of "inherent managerial
policy" under another provision in PELRA, Minn. Stat. §
179A.07, subd. 1 (2018).
plain language of Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(2), which
prohibits the unfair labor practice of interfering with the
existence of an employee organization, does not require that
the public employers interference be motivated by antiunion
H. Tanick, Teresa J. Ayling, Meyer Njus Tanick, PA,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondents.
L. VanderWiel, William J. Everett, Anna L. Yunker, Everett &
VanderWiel, P.L.L.P., Rosemount, Minnesota, for appellant.
William OBrien, Timothy J. Louris, Emily L. Marshall, Miller
OBrien Jensen, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici
curiae Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1005; International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 160; International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 949; International
Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49; and International
Union of Operating Engineers, Local 70.
Holten, Jeffrey D. Bores, Chestnut Cambronne PA, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Police and Peace
Officers Association Legal Defense Fund.
L. Naughton, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae League
of Minnesota Cities.
appeal concerns a labor dispute under the Public Employment
Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. § § 179A.01-.25
(2018). Firefighters Union Local 4725 (the Local) and union
president Mark Turner sued the City after it restructured its
fire department and eliminated all of the union positions.
court granted summary judgment to the City. The court of
appeals reversed, concluding that the City committed an
unfair labor practice under Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd.
2(2), which prohibits public employers from "interfering
with the ... existence ... of any employee
organization," and remanded to the district court. The
City sought further review, acknowledging that the decision
to restructure the fire department interfered with the
existence of the Local, but contending that the decision was
an authorized exercise of the Citys "inherent
managerial policy" under a different section of PELRA,
Minn. Stat. § 179A.07, subd. 1. We affirm the court of
appeals decision, but with reasoning that differs in part.
Local is an affiliate of the International Association of
Fire Fighters and represents five firefighters who were
employed by the City on a full-time basis. The five
firefighters were the entire membership of the Local at the
time of the Citys decision to restructure the fire
department in 2015.
2010, the City experienced a budget deficit following a
decrease in both property tax values and state aid. The City
attempted to restructure its fire department by eliminating
the full-time fire equipment operator (FEO) positions and
have the FEO duties performed by paid on-call (POC)
firefighters, who receive nominal compensation and limited
benefits. All of the FEO employees, but none of the POC
firefighters, were members of the Local. The Brainerd City
Council passed a resolution to adopt this plan, but later
rescinded it due to public opposition.
January 2015, the City and the Local negotiated and signed a
new three-year collective bargaining agreement that covered
the union FEO employees, but not the nonunion POC
firefighters. Six months later, the City informed the Local
in writing that the City again sought to restructure the fire
department to save money. The restructuring would eliminate
the FEO positions as a cost-saving measure. The Local
vigorously opposed the Citys proposal to lay off all of the
September 2015, the City Council passed a resolution to
restructure the fire department by eliminating the FEO
positions, using POC firefighters to perform the work
previously performed by the FEO employees, and creating a
full-time assistant fire chief position. The effect of the
restructuring was that the union FEO employees lost their
jobs and their duties were performed by nonunion
January 2016, the Local filed a complaint in the district
court alleging four counts. Count I— the only claim at
issue in this appeal— alleged that the City, in
eliminating the FEO positions, laying off the FEO employees,
and promoting a POC firefighter to the new assistant-chief
position (rather than rehiring an FEO employee), had engaged
in unfair labor practices prohibited by PELRA. In Count I,
the Local claimed that the City had engaged in three types of
prohibited unfair labor practices:
(1) interfering, restraining, or coercing employees in the
exercise of the rights
guaranteed in sections 179A.01 to 179A.25;
(2) dominating or interfering with the formation, existence,
or administration of any employee organization or
contributing other support to it; [and]
(3) discriminating in regard to hire or tenure to encourage
or discourage membership in an employee organization[.]
Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(1)-(3).
City moved for summary judgment on all counts. It is
important for the analysis that follows to understand the
legal position that the City took. The City
acknowledged— indeed, asserted affirmatively—
that its actions had eliminated the Local. In its
statement of undisputed facts in support of summary judgment,
the City represented that, "[a]s a result of the
restructuring, the FEOs were laid off and the [Local] was
dissolved." The City further asserted that the Locals
claim concerning the Citys promotion of a nonunion POC
firefighter to the new assistant-chief position was meritless
because PELRA did not apply after the Local members
"were no longer public employees and Firefighters Union
Local 4725 no longer existed." The City reemphasized
this assertion in its reply ...