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City employee group seeks state backing as a bargaining unit

WILLMAR -- State mediator Mike Stockstead said he will rule within 30 days on a petition filed by a group of Willmar city employees who say they should receive recognition as an appropriate bargaining unit.

WILLMAR - State mediator Mike Stockstead said he will rule within 30 days on a petition filed by a group of Willmar city employees who say they should receive recognition as an appropriate bargaining unit.
The group, representing 17 department head, first-line supervisor and confidential employee positions, filed the petition with the State Bureau of Mediation Services to challenge the City Council’s contention that the group should be split into two groups: one group representing the department heads and one group representing the supervisors and confidential employees. According to testimony, 14 of the 17 positions are currently filled.
In addition, Stockstead said he will rule whether three employee positions among the 17 - the administrative assistant to the police department, the administrative assistant to the city administrator, and the accounting supervisor - are supervisory employees.
The employee group says the three are supervisory positions, and the council says they are not supervisory positions.
During a nearly six-hour hearing Friday at the city offices, Stockstead received documents and took testimony from both sides. The employees were represented by Bruce Peterson, city planning and development director, and the city was represented by labor attorney Frank Madden of Plymouth.
Stockstead, a mediator with the Bureau of Mediation Services, said his target date is to issue the ruling by the end of June. Stockstead said he will take all the evidence as presented, along with his notes, and make a determination based on state statute.
Called by Peterson to testify were Janell Sommers, administrative assistant to the city administrator; Carol Cunningham, accounting supervisor; and Sue Edwards, administrative assistant to the police department. Peterson also called Police Captain Michael Anderson who testified about the administrative duties of the Police Department’s administrative assistant.
Peterson and Madden each asked the three to describe their job duties and responsibilities.
Madden called Willmar City Council member Tim Johnson who serves on the council’s bargaining team. Johnson said a concern arose among council members that the employee group had never been recognized as a bargaining unit by the Bureau of Mediation Services, and that there is a difference between the department heads that develop policy and the supervisory employees who carry out that policy.
Peterson presented 23 packets of documents and other exhibits that he said showed a 50-year history of recognition of the employee group by the council.
Madden said there is a significant distinction between those who are department heads who make policy and supervisory employees who carry out that policy. He said that the salaries of the supervisory employees is significantly lower that the salaries of the department heads.
Also, he said that there is no evidence prior to 1971 that the group was recognized as a bargaining unit by the city and that there has never been recognition of the bargaining group by the Bureau of Mediation Services.

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