Firefighters Union v. City of Brainerd, A18-0398 Minnesota Supreme Court Oral Arguments

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In 2015, appellant City of Brainerd restructured its fire department and eliminated all full-time fire-equipment operator (FEO) positions. After the restructuring, the fire department used paid on-call firefighters for the provision of fire services. Respondent Firefighters Union Local 4725, which represented the FEOs, and its president sued the City in district court. Among other claims, the Union asserted that the City had engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 179A.01–.25 (2016). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to the City and dismissed all of the Union’s claims.

The court of appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the PELRA claim. The court of appeals concluded that the City had violated the prohibition against interfering with the existence or administration of an employee organization, Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(2), “when, during the midst of an operating bargaining agreement, [the City] unilaterally eliminated all FEO positions, effectively dissolving [the] Union.” The court of appeals further concluded that “it is not an ‘inherent managerial policy’ for an employer to reorganize a department when the reorganization interferes with the existence and administration of a union.” See Minn. Stat. § 179A.07, subd. 1 (“A public employer is not required to meet and negotiate on matters of inherent managerial policy.”).

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the City’s restructuring of the fire department constitutes an unfair labor practice under PELRA or whether the restructuring constitutes an authorized exercise of a public employer’s inherent managerial authority. (Crow Wing County)

In 2015, appellant City of Brainerd restructured its fire department and eliminated all full-time fire-equipment operator (FEO) positions. After the restructuring, the fire department used paid on-call firefighters for the provision of fire services. Respondent Firefighters Union Local 4725, which represented the FEOs, and its president sued the City in district court. Among other claims, the Union asserted that the City had engaged in unfair labor practices in violation of the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), Minn. Stat. §§ 179A.01–.25 (2016). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to the City and dismissed all of the Union’s claims.

The court of appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment on the PELRA claim. The court of appeals concluded that the City had violated the prohibition against interfering with the existence or administration of an employee organization, Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(2), “when, during the midst of an operating bargaining agreement, [the City] unilaterally eliminated all FEO positions, effectively dissolving [the] Union.” The court of appeals further concluded that “it is not an ‘inherent managerial policy’ for an employer to reorganize a department when the reorganization interferes with the existence and administration of a union.” See Minn. Stat. § 179A.07, subd. 1 (“A public employer is not required to meet and negotiate on matters of inherent managerial policy.”).

On appeal to the supreme court, the following issue is presented: whether the City’s restructuring of the fire department constitutes an unfair labor practice under PELRA or whether the restructuring constitutes an authorized exercise of a public employer’s inherent managerial authority. (Crow Wing County)

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