Head v. Special School Dist. No. 1

Decision Date09 December 1970
Docket NumberR,42766,42747,Nos. 42734,42852,No. 59,59,s. 42734
Citation288 Minn. 496,182 N.W.2d 887
Parties, 75 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2880, 64 Lab.Cas. P 52,455 Douglas M. HEAD, Attorney General, State of Minnesota, Respondent, Keith W. Davidson, et al., Respondents, v. SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, etc., et al., Appellants, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Localespondent-Appellant, City of Minneapolis Education Association, Respondent-Appellant.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. The attorney general may commence litigation whenever, in his opinion, 2. A law must be sustained unless unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt, and the power of the courts to hold the law unconstitutional is exercised only when absolutely necessary. If the language of the law can be given two constructions, one constitutional and the other unconstitutional, the constitutional one must be adopted, though the unconstitutional construction may be more natural.

the interests of the state require it. He possesses such power pursuant to both common law and statute, and possesses original discretion which he may exercise in instituting proper proceedings to secure the enforcement of law.

3. Public employees do not have a common-law right to strike and can acquire the right only through legislation.

4. Activities protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution do not include strikes.

5. The legislature, acting under its police power, may prohibit strikes in certain fields of endeavor when the interests of public health, safety, and welfare are involved.

6. Public employment cannot be considered a property right within the meaning of the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution.

7. The provisions of Minn.St. 179.51, 179.54, and 179.55 are constitutional and applicable in all respects to this case. Thus, an agreement by a board of education to pay teachers an amount equal to their regular compensation for 7 days when they were on strike is null and void under § 179.54. An agreement to pay striking teachers increased compensation for duties performed within one year from the date of their violation of § 179.51 is prohibited by § 179.55.

Lindquist & Vennum, Jerrold F. Bergfalk, N. L. Newhall and Michael E. Murphy, Minneapolis, for School Dist. No. 1.

Helgesen, Peterson, Engberg & Spector, Minneapolis, for Minneapolis Fed., Local No. 59.

Oppenheimer, Brown, Wolff, Leach & Foster and Richard H. Murray, St. Paul, for City of Minneapolis Educ. Ass'n.

Douglas M. Head, Atty. Gen., Arne Schoeller, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., John Kenefick, Asst. Solicitor Gen., St. Paul, Earl H. A. Isensee, Minneapolis, for Davidson.

Peterson & Popovich, and James E. Knutson, St. Paul, amicus curiae, for Minn. School Boards Ass'n.


NELSON, Justice.

Appeal from an order and judgment of the District Court of Hennepin County permanently enjoining defendant Special School District No. 1 from making payment to striking Minneapolis school teachers pursuant to an agreement for increased wages and benefits negotiated between defendant board of education and defendants Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Local No. 59, and City of Minneapolis Education Association.

The case arises out of the Minneapolis school teachers' strike of April 1970. The facts have been stipulated to by all parties. Defendant Special School District No. 1 (hereinafter referred to as the school district) is the school disrict for the city of Minneapolis and, as such, has all the rights, privileges, duties, and obligations of an independent school district as provided for by the laws of the State of Minnesota. Defendant board of education (hereinafter referred to as the board) governs and has the care, management, supervision, conduct, and control of defendant school district. The school district in the school year 1969--1970 employed 3,400 teachers. Most of these teachers belong to one of two associations which represent their interests in negotiations with the board. These associations are defendant Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, Local No. 59 (hereinafter referred to as MFT), a voluntary union of teachers and others employed by the board; and defendant City of Minneapolis Education Association (hereinafter referred to as CMEA), a voluntary association of teachers and others employed by the board.

Defendant school district and its board, in dealing with its teachers, are governed by the so-called 'meet and confer law,' Minn.St. 125.19 to 125.26. Pursuant to this law, a teachers' council was established in the fall of 1969 consisting of three members of defendant MFT and two members of defendant CMEA to represent the teachers' interests in reaching agreement on 'conditions of professional services' between the teachers and the board for the school year 1970--1971. As defined in § 125.20, subd. 5, conditions of professional services means 'economic aspects relating to terms of employment, but does not mean educational policies of the district.' Beginning in December 1969, defendant board, through a committee, met with the teachers' council in an effort to reach agreement for the school year 1970--1971 on conditions of professional services. The committee and the teachers' council also exchanged information and expressed views on a wide variety of subjects of interest to the board and its teachers.

Despite extensive negotiations and discussions by the board's committee and the teachers' council, the two were, in February 1970, still over $10 million apart in regard to the teachers' salary schedule for the 1970--1971 school year. Therefore, in accordance with § 125.25, the board, by official action on February 24, 1970, requested the establishment of an adjustment panel, named its representatives to the panel, and notified the teachers' council of its action. The teachers' council chose not to appoint any representative to the adjustment panel or take part in any of its proceedings. Subsequently, the other two members to the adjustment panel were named by the chief judge of the Hennepin County District Court, one of those members being the president of MFT. He did not attend the proceedings or participate in any way in the deliberations or final recommendations of the adjustment panel.

On April 7, 1970, the adjustment panel adopted findings of fact and recommendations, which the board accepted and resolved to put into effect.

On April 6 the members of defendant MFT, by majority vote, determined to absent themselves from work in order to influence conditions of employment. The agreed date on which this was to commence was April 9, 1970.

On April 8 defendant CMEA applied to the board for personal leave on behalf of all its members for April 9 and 10. The board rescinded and canceled the personal leave policy and notified defendant CMEA of that action.

On April 9 certain members of defendant MFT went on strike against defendant school district and its board. Defendant CMEA determined by majority vote not to join in the strike. Despite this, some of its members did absent themselves from work commencing April 9 and joined the strike. Other CMEA members absented themselves and purported to take personal leave for April 9 and 10. On Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, about 1,200 teachers were at work. Approximately 2,200 were absent from work on those days, and active bannering and picketing took place at all schools.

On April 8 and 9, defendant board obtained temporary restraining orders against defendants MFT and CMEA and their officers, restraining and enjoining them from participating in a strike as defined in Minn.St. 179.51, and also from picketing school property or interfering with the normal operations of the schools. These orders also required the two organizations and their officers to show cause why a temporary injunction in similar language should not be issued. Defendant school district administratively determined that all teachers who absented themselves from work on Friday, April 10, 1970, were 'on strike,' that the provisions of § 179.54 were applicable, and that these teachers thus had terminated their employment. See, Garavalia v. City of Stillwater, 283 Minn. 335, 168 N.W.2d 336. Teachers who were present on April 10 were not treated as being on strike, regardless of whether they were or were not in attendance at their jobs on April 9.

Despite the temporary restraining orders, certain teachers continued on strike and continued to picket and banner throughout the week of April 13 to 17. Under these circumstances, the school administration decided to close the schools due to the possble danger to life and property of the students, teachers, and general public. Thereafter, the schools remained closed by various administrative actions, ratified by defendant board from time to time, from April 13 until April 29. On April 20 a writ of temporary injunction was issued and served on defendants MFT and CMEA and their officers. Thereafter, until the schools opened on April 29, there was no general picketing of the schools.

From April 13 to April 20, the board's committee met and conferred with the three MFT members of the teachers' council, defendant MFT allegedly excluding defendant CMEA's representatives from the meetings. On April 15 defendant CMEA sued to enjoin the board and MFT from continuing the meetings without the presence of the two CMEA members of the teachers' council. On April 21 the district court issued an order restraining defendants from calling or conducting meetings between the teachers' council and the board of education without first providing notice to all five members and affording each member a full opportunity to attend. By April 20 the board's committee and the MFT members of the teachers' council had worked out exact language to be included in all policy items for adoption by the board. However, on that same day, the board broke...

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