Judge considers childcare provider unionization argumentsA federal judge is considering whether the union-organizing effort should continue among Minnesota’s home childcare workers.
By: Don Davis and Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL — A federal judge is considering whether the union-organizing effort should continue among Minnesota’s home childcare workers.
The 2013 Legislature passed and Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation to allow some 12,700 Minnesotans who offer in-home daycare — and who receive state subsidies for low-income children — to join unions.
On July 18, Judge Michael Davis heard the state defend the law and opponents say the unionization movement should be halted. Although the legislation also included unionization for personal care assistants, the two lawsuits contest the portion of the state law covering childcare workers only.
The union election process is still in its earliest stages. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union is seeking to organize child care workers who care for children receiving state subsidies.
The hearing July 18 produced no immediate ruling; however, the judge heard arguments from two different groups of childcare providers who oppose the bill. One, represented by attorney Doug Seaton, basically argued that owners of private childcare businesses cannot legally be unionized because they are employers, not employees. A different group — made up of 12 providers from around the state and represented by William Messenger of the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation — argued that the measure should be invalidated because it violates the providers’ constitutional right of free association.
Minnesota Solicitor General Alan Gilbert argued for dismissal of the two different lawsuits, because the plaintiffs filed suit long before they could possibly suffer any adverse consequences from the law.
Cloquet childcare provider Addie Clyde is one of 12 plaintiffs in the lawsuit represented by Messenger. Clyde explained that the measure passed by the Legislature gave the union “exclusive rights” to represent child-care providers who receive state subsidies for income-qualified clients.
“We’re saying that we should have the right to go to bat for ourselves or to talk to any [existing] state or county association to represent us,” Clyde said. “We should have the right to choose who speaks for us, whether that’s me or someone else.”
Supporters said that would give the childcare workers more say when the state adopts new rules and decides how much to pay.
Dayton said that a judge who overturned his attempt in 2011 to allow unionization on his own said the decision should be up to the Legislature. The Legislature, dominated by Democrats, opted to follow Dayton’s lead and allow unionization.
Clyde is hoping for some kind of decision in the case by the end of the month.