Thanks to workers at Hennepin County Medical Center, other public employees will have their voices heard when certain labor-management issues go to court.
In pursuing legal action against HCMC for alleged unfair labor practices, the workers sought the right to an evidentiary hearing. Hennepin County District Judge Amy Dawson agreed, meaning they would have the opportunity to testify in court about their motion for a temporary restraining order.
The issue was settled (see related story), so no testimony was necessary, but the workers’ action will have a lasting effect.
“It set a precedent and is giving us a very powerful tool,” said Gregg Corwin, attorney representing AFSCME Council 5 and Locals 944 and 2474.
Corwin, who has been a labor attorney for 44 years, said that in the past, only attorneys were allowed to testify at hearings on requests for injunctions. That was based on interpretation of PELRA, the state’s Public Employment Labor Relations Act.
In the HCMC case, AFSCME successfully argued for a different interpretation, based in part on Minnesota’s “little Norris LaGuardia Act,” which provides for the right to an evidentiary hearing in requests for injunctions in private sector labor-management cases. Parts of the Act were incorporated into PELRA when it was written in the early 1970s.
Corwin told the HCMC workers that their effort means other public employees will be able to tell their stories in court. They include workers involved in cases he is handling in Ramsey County and Duluth.
No longer will it only be attorneys who have the right to speak, he said, adding, “Isn’t it more important to hear from the workers themselves?”