The 88th Minnesota Legislature ended its session on May 16, 2014, and there are some significant changes to Minnesota Statute Chapter 179A, the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA). 

One of the biggest changes involves the creation of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).  Back in the 1970’s, Minnesota had a PERB, but its’ responsibilities were changed and reassigned to the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS).  Now the legislature has re-created a new PERB.  This PERB consists of three members, two of which will be appointed by the governor, one who represents exclusive representatives, and one who represents public employers.  These two board members will then select a third member to serve the public at large.  The purpose of the new board will be to take actions and enforce Minn. Stat. § 179A.13 regarding unfair labor practices. 

Effective, July 1, 2015, if an employee, employer, employee/employer organization, or exclusive representative, allege an unfair labor practice has occurred, they shall file such charge with the PERB.  Currently, such actions are brought in district court.  The PERB will then conduct an investigation into the allegation and issue a complaint, unless the charge has no reasonable basis in law or fact.  After a complaint has been issued a hearing will be conducted within 20 days of the service of the complaint.  By mutual agreement, the parties prior to the close of the hearing can also request a referral to mediation. 

If the hearing officers determine a party has engaged in an unfair labor practice, then a recommended decision and order shall be issued outlining the findings of fact and conclusions, and requiring the party to cease and desist.  The hearing officer can also order other appropriate relief that make the charging party whole. 

It will be interesting to see how this all works once the PERB is established.  I think it will be beneficial to the arena of labor law to have individuals who are well-versed in the legal aspects of unfair labor practices investigating and hearing cases vs. the average district court judge who may be hearing a personal injury case on Monday and a criminal case on Friday.  I think this change has been along time coming and will expedite unfair labor practice claims to the benefit of both labor and management.