BMS Policy on Closing Mediation Meetings
Minn. Stat. § 179A.14, Subd. 3, provides as follows:
All negotiations, mediation sessions, and hearings between public employers and public employees or their respective representatives are public meetings except when otherwise provided by the commissioner.
The Bureau treats all negotiations and hearings as public meetings; mediation meetings are closed to the public and the press. Click here to view Bureau's Mediation Policy III.06 regarding closing mediation meetings.
This has been the consistent policy of Bureau Commissioners since the enactment of this provision of PELRA in 1984.
Mediation is a different process than direct negotiation; it is, by definition, a confidential process. See for example the ABA Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, and the EU Code of Conduct for Mediators. The procedures and techniques used by mediators require meeting jointly and separately in private caucus to, identify and clarify issues, interests, options, suggest compromises, and test ideas for acceptability. Confidentiality cannot be maintained at an open meeting.
A labor contract is a binding agreement between an employer and a union representing employees. Reaching an agreement requires negotiation (for public sector employers at an open meeting), and sometimes mediation which is confidential. It is important to understand that neither the contract nor the process of its approval is secret. In Minnesota, public sector labor agreements do not become final and binding until an open public meeting where the governing body votes whether to approve the contract. Those not directly involved as representatives of management and labor may voice their views to their representatives during this process. However, there will be no approval process until these leaders, meeting directly at the bargaining table reach agreement.