Labor Negotiation Process
The Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) is the Minnesota state law that regulates labor relations between public employers, their employees, and the labor organizations that represent their employees. PELRA outlines the representation election process through which employees may elect an exclusive bargaining representative as well as the decertification process through which employees may elect to decertify an exclusive bargaining representative. Many of the provisions of PELRA are administered by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS).
PELRA divides the employees of the University into 13 distinct groups for purposes of potential representation. If a majority of the employees in a defined group voting in a representation election choose to become represented, then the BMS will designate an "exclusive representative" who is legally responsible to speak on behalf of that group of employees in discussions with the University over terms and conditions of employment. Units within the University with elected "exclusive representatives" include: Law Enforcement (MNPEA); Crafts and Trades (various trades unions); Service, Maintenance, and Labor (Teamsters); Health Care (AFSCME); Clerical (AFSCME); Technical (AFSCME); Duluth faculty (UEA); and Crookston faculty (UEA).
Labor negotiations between the University and the above bargaining units occur biannually and generally begin in late spring with the goal of concluding before contracts expire at the end of the fiscal year. Each party brings proposals concerning terms and conditions of employment to the table, and negotiations continue until an agreement is reached.
In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement, PELRA provides impasse procedures. These procedures involve intervention in the negotiation process by a mediator provided by the BMS. If mediation fails, employees may vote to strike after their contract expires and after procedural and notice requirements are met.
Once the parties reach agreement, full bargaining unit members vote on whether or not to accept the terms and conditions of the new contract. If the vote is positive, the contract is signed and becomes binding. Bargaining unit contracts at the University of Minnesota are typically two-years in duration.