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Nothing in the First Amendment suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to individuals' communications on public issues. No other constitutional provision has been advanced as a source of such a requirement. Nor does the structure of government established and approved by the Constitution provide the source. It is inherent in a republican form of government that direct public participation in government policymaking is limited.
The Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) authorizes state employees to bargain collectively over terms and conditions of employment. The statute also grants professional employees, such as college faculty, the right to "meet and confer" with their employers on matters related to employment that are outside the scope of mandatory bargaining. However, if professional employees forming an appropriate bargaining unit have selected an exclusive representative for mandatory bargaining, their employer may "meet and confer" on nonmandatory subjects only with that representative. Appellant Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges (Board) operates the Minnesota community college system, and appellant Minnesota Community College Faculty Association (MCCFA) is the designated exclusive representative of the faculty of the State's community colleges. On the state level, MCCFA and the Board established "meet and confer" committees to discuss policy questions applicable to the entire system. On the campus level, the MCCFA chapters and the college administrations created local "meet and confer" committees to discuss policy questions applicable only to the campus. Appellees, 20 Minnesota community college faculty instructors who are not members of MCCFA, filed suit in Federal District Court, challenging, inter alia, the constitutionality of MCCFA's exclusive representation of community college faculty in the "meet and confer" processes. The District Court held that the "meet and confer" provisions of PELRA deprived appellees of their First and Fourteenth Amendment speech and associational rights by denying them an opportunity to participate in their employer's making of policy, and the court granted declaratory and injunctive relief.
Was the Minnesota public employment labor relations statute restricting participation in "meet and confer" sessions to public employees' exclusive representative valid?
The court held that PELRA violated no constitutional provision. The instructors had no right as members of the public to a government audience for their policy views. The state did not restrain their freedom to speak on any education-related issue or their freedom to associate. PELRA was rationally related to the state's legitimate interest in ensuring that its public employers hear one, and only one, voice presenting the majority view of its professional employees on employment-related policy questions.