Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Paul Zech, Felhaber Larson
Paul Zech, Felhaber Larson

The POWER 30: Paul Zech

As this story was written, the Minnesota Nurses Association, representing 15,000 members, was in talks over working conditions and pay. Nurses were donning buttons and stickers announcing “We Are Ready” to fight to put patients before the profits of hospital CEOs, MNA’s web site announced.

It’s one of several newsworthy strikes or near strikes recently in Minnesota. Minneapolis teachers were out for about three weeks, and public defenders came close. It wasn’t the first nurses’ strike.

In 1984, about 6,000 nurses in Minnesota went on strike for 38 days. It was the largest nurses strike in American history until 2010, when they again went on strike. That was the next strike to be the largest in U.S. history.

In 2016 nurses struck again and were out for 37 days, one day short of the 1984 strike.

Paul Zech has been a management side labor lawyer since 1984, in a way making his practice congruent with nurses’ organizational struggles (although nurses had been organized earlier).

Now management is faced with COVID-era challenges, with companies concerned about managing their way out of a pandemic, pension plan stability in an uncertain economy and a new administration in Washington that has called itself the most pro-labor executive branch ever. It is also concerned with anticipated changes at the National Labor Relations Board, whose members are appointed by the president.

“I tell my clients the situation is difficult and intellectually challenging,” Zech said.

Like other management-side lawyers, Zech is terribly concerned that the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize) may be enacted.  “It is mind-boggling against employers,” he said.

He sees it as a way “to embolden unions to resuscitate impediments” to labor relations. He sees most unfair labor practice claims as “wrangling with employers about access to information,” and the requests for information don’t seem fair. Some employers are struggling to stay open and are doing their best, he said. “It only takes a postage stamp and five minutes to file an unfair labor charge.”

His advice to his clients is to audit their employee relationships. “What are they doing to set themselves apart? What are they doing to be aware?”

Employers should be as proactive as they can and pay attention to the market. Look for career opportunities for employees and give those opportunities to them, Zech said.