Bargaining/negotiations guidance

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Bargaining alerts

The Education Minnesota Negotiations Department issues occasional bargaining alerts on topics of interest to negotiators. Bargaining alerts represent our best advice on how locals should approach challenging and/or timely issues at the negotiations table.  

As always, we encourage locals to work with your field staff on overall organizing and bargaining strategies to accomplish local goals.

1. NEW! Reopening contract negotiations and the use of conditional provisions
The increasing staffing shortages and the possibility of additional state education funding has prompted some local unions and districts to reconsider current compensation structures and reevaluate the need for more recruitment and retention tools. Whether for their ability to attract and retain employees or due to an increase in funding, a local and district may want to agree to enter into negotiations about their current contract.  Unsettled locals have the different possibility of proactively bargaining language that addresses possible changes to education funding.

2. Distance learning
Distance learning is going to be a factor in public education for the foreseeable future. The purpose of this document is to help identify issues your local may need to address in discussions with the district or formal contract negotiations. Specific language will be developed as needed and a sample language bank will be established.

3. Pandemic response: protecting educators and students
Issues around compensation and benefits, working conditions and make-up time during a pandemic like the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be determined by a combination of your current collective bargaining agreement, new provisions negotiated between our locals and districts and legislated or executive actions at the state level. This situation remains fluid and so guidance will be updated frequently as we learn more and as the fluidity of this situation warrants.

4. “Last best final offer” scenarios
Districts may attempt to change the power dynamic in negotiations not through collective action, but through artificial leverage by making a “last best final offer” at the table. This tactic is often recommended by attorneys paid by the district to advise board members on negotiations. We should understand this tactic as a prerequisite for the district attempting to impose the contract terms they wish to see and an abdication of responsibility under PELRA. Bargaining teams should clearly understand their role in continuing to negotiate through a bad-faith effort by the district to stop negotiating and should take steps to both organize members and seek solutions at the bargaining table or in mediation.

5. Unrequested leave of absence
In 2017, the Legislature passed a bill eliminating statutory default language on unrequested leaves of absence (ULA or layoff) in Minn. Stat. 122A.40, subd. 11. It is now critical for local unions to review existing contract language on ULA and negotiate a system will work in your local setting. Our guidance includes sample language and checklists.

6. Union protections
Following the Janus decision and years of political attacks against educators and our union, Education Minnesota has updated bargaining recommendations for local unions including recommended contract language and advice on local Constitution and Bylaw changes.

7. Substitute issues
Minnesota’s teacher shortage poses a challenge not only for finding new teachers but for finding substitute teacher coverage. Local unions can help enforce and improve contractual protections for teachers when it comes to ensuring that teachers have right of refusal for coverage that disrupts prep time or provides inadequate pay for their time. In addition, substitute teachers in long-term assignments are members of our bargaining units and it is important to ensure that they are protected as well.

8. Sick leave banks
Voluntary sick leave banks provide employees an opportunity to pool sick leave days together to protect each other from financial loss due to a serious illness, accident or injury. When an eligible employee must be absent from work for an extended time, the employee may receive paid leave benefits from the sick leave bank to minimize loss of salary and benefits. Negotiation over the provisions of the sick leave banks provides clarity for both employers and employees. The terms governing the use of sick leave are a mandatory subject of bargaining and should be included in the contract, not policy.

9. New employee orientation
As new educators enter the workforce at the beginning of or throughout each school year, they have questions that our union is in the best position to answer. We recommend that you bargain language into your contract to ensure that your local has time to connect with potential members at the start of their employment.

Recommended ESP bargaining goals

  1. Advance meaningful professional development opportunities and fair evaluation processes
  2. Support high-quality learning environments for students
  3. Foster strong schools as building blocks of our communities
  4. Promote educators’ economic security
  5. Recognize the importance of local union work as a contributing factor to district success
  6. Process goals

12 pgs., 1MB

Recommended teacher bargaining goals

The bargaining goals recommended in this document offer a menu of options for locals.

  1. Advance meaningful professional development opportunities and fair evaluation processes
  2. Support high-quality learning environments for students
  3. Foster strong schools as building blocks of our communities
  4. Promote educators’ economic security
  5. Support optimal professional teaching and learning time
  6. Process goals

12 pgs., 1MB

Equity Checklist for Collective Bargaining Agreements

Contract provisions to examine.

PDF, 14 pgs., 345KB

ABE and ECFE advocacy

ABE and ECFE teachers are currently prohibited by state law from achieving continuing contract or tenure status and are consistently separated from core contractual provisions in districts across the state.  

The resources below provide sample contract language and resources for advocacy at the bargaining table and the Legislature:

PDF, 6 pgs., 167KB

PDF, 32 pgs., 1,020KB