Labor Relations

Dec. 2, a bill was signed by President Biden ending a threatened strike by railroad workers nationwide.  For anyone with any interest in Labor Relations generally, this is an opportunity to get a notion of issues and how they are resolved.  The railroad legislation is well summarized here.

As one whose full-time job was Labor Relations, for 27 years, every labor issue is, from the advocates point of view, ‘clear’.  But different constituencies have differing points of view, on virtually every issue, every time.  The railroad issue is no different; only the scale is much greater.


On a similar note, in mid-November a colleague sent along a recent and interesting video about the 1970 Minneapolis Teachers Strike, presented from the point of view of then-leaders and members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers.

I forwarded the video to former staff and teacher union colleagues with some personal comments relating to Labor Relations in the public school teacher sector back then.  If you are a former teacher, particularly in Minnesota, particularly if you were active in either Association or Federation back then, this writeup and the video may be of interest to you.

My friend and organization colleague, sent me the below….  The video, here,  is about 30 minutes and interesting.  It was made this year.  I think you’ll find this interesting.


Of course, not all is quite as simple as it seems.  At the time, there were two teacher unions in Minneapolis and Minnesota, the MEA and the MFT [Education Association and Federation of Teachers].  I wrote about the Minneapolis and other strikes in 1988, 34 years ago.  Those memories are here: Teacher Strikes MN 1946 to 1980s.
The bargaining law (PELRA) was passed in 1971. Not 1972 or 73 as suggested in the video.  PELRA did indeed replace Meet and Confer, derisively called “Bring and Beg”, passed in 1967, which was an essential preliminary to legislating collective bargaining law in Minnesota, and a big improvement in the status quo: a bipartisan creation in the state legislature of the time.  Simply stated, state lawmakers had to be convinced to allow teachers to organize and bargain enforceable contracts.  This was not. easy.
Personally, I became active in the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association in 1968-69 as a building rep.  In about 1971 I was part of a Team that was in Meet and Confer and we met in the Adjustment Panel at the office of Leonard Lindquist, then a major labor lawyer in downtown Minneapolis.  I had a chance to witness, first hand, the potential and the limits of Meet and Confer.
Subsequently, in 1981, the right to strike was added to PELRA, and 35 MEA locals went on strike.  (In 1979, I was the President of the MEA stuff union when we went on strike against MEA, a truly unique situation.)
As you probably know, at the time of the Minneapolis Strike, and likely still, there were two sets of laws in Minnesota for public education.  One was for the Cities of the First Class (Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth); the other for the rest of the state, from large urban to tiny rural school districts.  Labor problems were not easily dealt with particularly in small communities, where all politics was local and very personal; the big cities schools were more attached to the political structure of the cities themselves – mayors, council and the like had much more power.  
Meet and Confer, in my opinion, was a necessary pre-cursor to the more major change to PELRA.
Take the time to read the attached pages about the Minneapolis Strike.  They add to the most interesting film of the old days.
Many thanks, again.”
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