Court upholds Minnesota child care union election


A federal judge ruled Sunday to dismiss two lawsuits that sought to stop a union election for state-subsidized child care providers in Minnesota. Roughly 12,700 child care providers are now eligible to vote in the union election – that includes licensed and unlicensed in-home providers who receive state subsidies from the Child Care Assistance Program.

One of the suits filed against the state claimed the recently passed unionization measure violates federal labor law; the other claimed it infringes on First Amendment rights of free association. U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis said the plaintiffs’ claims are not “ripe.” He noted that no union election or collective bargaining has occurred and no injury is imminent.

Judge Davis wrote: “At this time, the state statute does not require Plaintiffs to associate with a union, be represented by a union, engage in collective bargaining, or pay money to any union. Plaintiffs may never be required to do any of these things.” He added that “Plaintiffs request that the Court peer into a crystal ball, predict the future, and then opine on the constitutionality of a speculative scenario.”

AFSCME Council 5 celebrated both rulings.

“Child care providers can finally vote and decide for themselves if they want to join together in a union,” said spokesperson Jennifer Munt. “Pro-union providers are uniting for a stronger voice in decisions that affect their work and the families they serve. Uniting will improve the quality of in-home child care by giving providers greater access to important health, safety and educational tools. It will also give parents greater peace of mind that their kids are getting what they need to succeed.

“These quick rulings show that the Minnesota Legislature has the right to let child care providers vote on a union,” explained Munt. “It shows that the state also has the right to bargain with caregivers who are paid by the state.”

The lawsuit had been spurred on by anti-labor groups such as the Minnesota Majority and the National Right to Work Committee.

Governor Dayton, who was listed as a defendant in both cases, said in a news release that he is pleased with the rulings: “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.”