by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Federal U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Davis dismissed two lawsuits on Sunday, July 28, seeking to prevent in-home, child care providers from becoming unionized.
The suits were filed in the wake of high-profile legislation passed last legislative session that could result in about 12,700 licensed and unlicensed child care providers who receive state Child Care Assistance subsidies voting rights on possible unionization.
“Nothing surprises me anymore as far as what’s going on,” Becky Swanson, a Lakeville child care provider who spent many hours at the State Capitol last session protesting against the legislation, said of the ruling.
In his actions, Davis asserted the lawsuits were not “ripe,” because the plaintiffs hadn’t yet suffered damages. At this time the plaintiffs are not required to be associated with a union, be represented by a union, engage in collective bargaining or pay union dues, he argued.
“Plaintiffs may never be required to do any of these things. No injury is certainly impending. Their claim is not ripe,” Davis wrote.
Further, it’s “pure speculation” to assert union fair-share fees will be charged to the plaintiffs, the judge wrote. It could happen, Davis noted.
“Simply arguing that a defendant’s future actions might violate federal law does not create a ripe case when the plaintiff’s future injury is speculative,” Davis wrote.
Opponents have charged the unionization legislation is payback to the unions by Democrats, that it would force child care providers to refuse to accept children from poor families receiving subsidies and that the rational behind unionizing private businesses is senseless.
Swanson believes opponents will triumph in the end.
“We’re kind of in assessment time,” Swanson said of considering future actions.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who saw his executive order facilitating a vote among state-subsidized child care providers dismissed by a district court in April 2012, expressed satisfaction with Davis’ ruling.
“I am very pleased that both lawsuits seeking to prevent child care providers from deciding for themselves whether or not to form a union have been dismissed by the Chief Judge of the United States District Court,” Dayton said in a statement.
“I believe that working men and women should have the right to vote on forming a union, and that the Court’s decisions will permit such an election to be held,” he said.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 Spokeswoman Jennifer Munt also expressed satisfaction with the ruling. In a statement, Munt said child care providers can finally decide for themselves if they want to join a union.
Speaking on Monday, July 29, Munt said the union is reaching out to both licensed and unlicensed child care providers in its vote efforts.
“It’s going to take some time to do that,” she said.
Union officials may obtain an election by mail ballot by presenting a petition to state officials showing at least 30 percent of day care providers covered under the legislation wish to be represented by a union.
Although not expressing surprise over the judge’s ruling, Munt indicated the speed at which the ruling was made was unusual. Such federal rulings usually take longer, she said.
Munt indicated the union expects further legal challenges.
On the union website, in a review of the past legislative session, the day care unionization legislation is described as the biggest expansion of workers’ rights in Minnesota in 40 years.
Tim Budig can be reached at [email protected]