Duluth city council yanks resolution supporting union nurses

It’s the sort of standard atta-boy endorsement of a leftwing cause or group that usually sails through the Duluth City Council. Three city councilors introduced a resolution in support of the members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, who recently walked off the job for three days in the Twin Cities and Duluth-Superior to call attention to their impatience over contract negotiations.

What could go wrong? Plenty, according to the News Tribune coverage.

A resolution calling for a fair contract for the Minnesota Nurses Association prompted a divisive debate among City Council members recently.

Councilors Mike Mayou, Azrin Awal and Gary Anderson brought the resolution forward only to have their colleagues vote to remove it from the agenda before it could even be considered.

Councilor Roz Randorf expressed concern that a resolution of support for the MNA’s negotiation efforts could have resulted in future expectations.

“There are dozens and dozens of unions we support locally. And my biggest thing is: Where, as a council, do we get actively involved in negotiating?” she said.

The city council had previously called for both sides in the labor dispute to negotiate in good faith. Yet that’s as close as most members of the city council evidently wanted to get, in order to avoid the appearance of meddling in or exerting influence over the negotiation process. But they had to pull a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver out of the bag to quash the apparently one-sided resolution, a move that didn’t sit well with their colleagues.

In a seldom-exercised move, using one of the council’s standing rules of operation, councilors who shared Randorf’s concerns chose to shelve the resolution Sept. 22 — four days before it was slated to go to an actual vote at a public meeting.

At the next meeting, Anderson expressed his dismay with his colleagues’ Sept. 22 actions, noting that in more than 6½ years on the council, he had never seen such a maneuver.

“Not one, not two, but three councilors brought forward a resolution that we thought was important to air in the view of the public, not at an agenda session but at a council meeting,” he said. “I believe this community expects that our debates and our votes will happen at our regular meetings.”

In reality, no one actually doubts the city council’s pro-union allegiances. Perhaps that explains why the council chair made the case they were actually doing the Minnesota Nurses Association a favor by preventing the measure from coming to a vote that could cause PR problems.

[Council chair Arik] Forsman agreed that the public perception of bringing the resolution to a vote could have been tricky to navigate.

“From what I heard in that discussion, if councilors chose to vote ‘no,’ it would have been more about the precedent it was setting and what constitutes council business. But it would have been taken as being not supportive of what the nurses are asking for,” he said.