Much like can occur in the process itself, two very divergent views have emerged about a collective bargaining bill.
Supporters of HF1690 say it would give workers a greater voice when it comes to negotiations on working conditions; opponents argue unprecedented employee access could be granted to union officials, cybersecurity concerns, and changes could be costly for school districts and local units of government.
“As Minnesotans we are proud of our state and the standard of living that we provide for all of our residents, but right now our laws are not keeping up with the times to ensure our public servants have the support they need to keep all Minnesotans educated, safe and healthy,” Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-Mpls) told the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday.
Laid over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, the Jordan-sponsored proposal seeks myriad modifications to the Public Employment Labor Relations Act that was passed in 1984 and has not, in Jordan’s words, seen “significant changes” since the 1990s. “That stagnation and our public sector labor laws has eroded the ability of public employees to join together to have a voice on the job, and that hurts all of us.”
Amongst the bill provisions it would require:
Edward Barlow teaches music at Anwatin Middle School in Minneapolis and was a 2022 Minnesota Teacher of the Year finalist. He’s had class sizes of 50 students, far from an ideal teacher-student ratio.
“I had trouble just finding enough seats, let alone not enough materials,” he said. “… I support HF1690 because it addresses the learning conditions in our schools and gives students and families transparency on how our schools are working for them.”
Concerns addressed by opponents include that bargaining for staff ratios can be problematic at a time when workforce shortages are already prevalent, what happens if a district has an influx of students during a year, the proposal is at odds with inherent managerial rights, and the fear of giving an outside entity access to a city or school district email system.
“It’s not difficult for me to imagine a situation where this provision will create serious issues with data privacy, with records retention, with accusations of unfair labor practices and with lawsuits and with cybersecurity,” said Laura Kushner, human resources director at the League of Minnesota Cities. “… The city has to be able to hold accountable the people who are using their email system. For employees that’s fine because the city has the tools to hold those people accountable. For an outside entity that is doing business using their email system, they have no ability to hold those folks accountable.”
Rep. Danny Nadeau (R-Rogers) said he tries to find places of agreement in all bills but is having no success with this one. “This is a handoff to one side of a strong commitment that teachers and their collective bargaining along with the school district have committed to for decades. This is basically tying the hands of one."