This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In the Matter of a Petition for

Clarification of an Appropriate Unit

American Federation of State, County

and Municipal Employees,

Council No. 65, Nashwauk, Minnesota,





Independent School District No. 2184,

Luverne, Minnesota,



Bureau of Mediation Services,



Filed October 29, 2002

Klaphake, Judge


Bureau of Mediation Services

File No. 01-PCL-545


Teresa L. Joppa, 3911 7th Street South, Moorhead, MN  56560 (for relator AFSCME Council No. 65)


James E. Knutson, Michelle D. Kenney, Knutson, Flynn Deans & Olsen, 1155 Centre Pointe Drive, Suite 10, Mendota Heights, MN  55120 (for respondent ISD No. 2184)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103 (for BMS)


            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            AFSCME Council 65, the certified exclusive representative of certain employees of Independent School District No. 2184 (ISD No. 2184) of Luverne, Minnesota, petitioned the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) for an appropriate unit clarification.  Council 65 sought to add to the bargaining unit part-time employees working between 8 and 18 hours per week.  Relying on the language of the collective bargaining agreement and other evidence presented to it, the commissioner of the BMS ruled that the “normal work week” of the unit was 40 hours per week.  The commissioner thus concluded that under Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14(e) (2000), any employee working fewer than 14 hours per week was not included in the bargaining unit.  Council 65 appealed this decision by writ of certiorari.  Because there is substantial evidence to support the commissioner’s decision, we affirm.


            An agency decision will be reversed if it is based on an error of law, is arbitrary or capricious, or is not supported by substantial evidence.  Sch. Serv. Employees Local No. 284 v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 270, 499 N.W.2d 828, 831 (Minn. App. 1993).  “Substantial evidence” is

such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. * * * If the evidence is conflicting or the undisputed facts permit  more than one inference to be drawn, the findings of the [commissioner] may not be upset and the district court may not substitute its judgment for that of the [commissioner].

Patzwald v. Pub. Employment Relations Bd., 306 N.W.2d 118, 120 (Minn. 1981) (quotation omitted).  The reviewing court will defer to the agency where the matter involves expertise and knowledge within the agency’s particular authority.  Sch. Serv. Employees Local No. 284, 499 N.W.2d at 831. 

            Under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA), the commissioner has the duty to make appropriate unit determinations.  Minn. Stat. § 179A.04, subd. 2 (2000).  The commissioner considers a number of factors in making the determination, including

the principles and the coverage of uniform comprehensive position classification and compensation plans of the employees, professions and skilled crafts, and other occupational classifications, relevant administrative and supervisory levels of authority, geographical location, history, extent of organization, the recommendation of the parties, and other relevant factors.  The commissioner shall place particular importance upon the history and extent of organization, and the desires of the petitioning employee representatives. 


Minn. Stat. § 179A.09, subd. 1 (2000). 

            Only public employees are covered by PELRA, and the definition of “public employee” excludes “part-time employees whose service does not exceed the lesser of 14 hours per week or 35 percent of the normal work week in the employee’s appropriate unit.”  Minn. Stat. § 179A.03, subd. 14(e) (2000).  In order to make an appropriate unit decision, the commissioner must determine what is the “normal work week” of Council 65. 

            The commissioner examined, among other evidence, the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, a schedule describing the regular hours of all employees in the unit, and a letter quoting the comments of the unit representative confirming that all represented employees must work at least 14 hours per week.  The collective bargaining agreement includes a clause stating that full-time employees work a 40-hour week and defining this as the “normal week.”  CBA, art. XI, § 1; see also CBA, art. III, § 7 (“Full-time Employee: An employee who is hired for 2080 or more hours per year.”).  Some weight must be given to this bargained-for language.

            Council 65 argues that the commissioner failed to make findings on the actual hours worked by employees in the unit because the concept of “full-time” is not limited to the 40-hour work week.  Thus, if full-time employees in a unit work 35 hours per week, the predominant normal work week equals 35 hours.  See Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 721 v. Sch. Servs. Employees, Local 284, 379 N.W.2d 673, 674 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding that “normal work week” is to be calculated by reference to normal, predominant work week of full-time employees of bargaining unit), review denied (Minn. Mar. 14, 1986).  Further, different classifications of represented employees can have different normal work weeks, where the categories are distinctly drawn in the collective bargaining agreement.  See Sch. Serv. Employees, Local No. 284 v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 721, BMS Case No. 85-PR-100-A, at 4 (Feb. 21, 1985).[1] 

            Unlike Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 721, the collective bargaining agreement here does not distinguish between job classifications, but treats the unit as a whole.  The schedule of employees’ regular hours establishes that those in the job classifications covered by the unit work between 6 and 40 hours, and the agreement describes a normal work week as 40 hours.  The collective bargaining agreement does not distinguish among different job classifications, and all employees are paid under a uniform wage schedule. 

            The commissioner’s grant of authority is broad enough to permit consideration of the collective bargaining agreement in determining an appropriate unit.  See Minn. Stat. § 179A.09, subd. 1 (commissioner may consider “other relevant factors”).  Based on the agreement, the schedule of hours, and other evidence presented, the commissioner had substantial evidence on which to base his decision.

            We therefore affirm the commissioner’s decision.



[1] This is the BMS decision that was appealed on the limited issue of whether certain part-time cooks were public employees in Indep. Sch. Dist. No.  721, 379 N.W.2d at 674.