Minnesota Striker Replacement Act Preempted By Federal Labor Law

The Minnesota Supreme Court recently published its long-awaited decision striking down the Minnesota Striker Replacement Act (the "Act") as preempted by Federal Labor Law. Thus, the State's highest court has determined that Minnesota employers can permanently replace striking employees, despite the attempted prohibition against permanent replacements under the Act.

As we previously reported to you, the issue of preemption of the Act has been making its way through both the state and federal courts. In Midwest Motor Express, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the employer challenged the constitutionality of the Act in Minnesota State Court. The state district court held that the Act was not preempted by Federal Labor Law and the Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court has now reversed the Court of Appeals and held that the Act is indeed preempted by long-standing Federal Labor Law.

The Minnesota Supreme Court stated that no matter how one defines "permanent," granting employees status as permanent replacement workers comes under "the umbrella of Federal Labor Law" and is preempted. The court noted that 55 years have passed since the United States Supreme Court ruled that an employer may hire permanent replacements for striking employees without committing an unfair labor practice. The court noted that Congress has had many opportunities to pass legislation to limit the employer's right to hire permanent replacements, but has not done so. It is for the Congress, not the courts, to determine what regulations should be placed on the use of economic weapons in collection bargaining.

Although Minnesota's highest state court has now ruled that the Act is preempted, the issue is still pending in the federal courts. In Employer's Association, v. United Steelworkers of America, the Employer's Association challenged the Act in federal district court, and the court held that the Act was preempted by Federal Labor Law and was unconstitutional. This decision has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. A decision is pending.

Therefore, under the current state of affairs, the Minnesota Supreme Court and federal courts are in agreement that the hiring of permanent replacement workers is not affected by the Act. Further, if the Eighth Circuit affirms the federal district court ruling, then the federal and state courts will remain in agreement on this issue, and Minnesota employers will continue to be free to hire permanent replacement workers. In the meantime, federal legislation banning the permanent replacement of striking employees is pending in Congress and has the support of President Clinton. Therefore, the issue of Minnesota's Striker Replacement Act, and the court cases dealing with the Act, may become moot if federal legislation is passed prohibiting the hiring of permanent replacement workers. If there is a decision from the Eighth Circuit Court regarding the Minnesota Act, or if Federal Law is passed by Congress and signed by the President on this issue, Briggs and Morgan will report on those developments.