Lawsuit seeks to stop pending childcare unionization vote
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
A Lakeville childcare provider has joined with a group of about 10 others in a legal effort to block the childcare unionization vote recently put in motion by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Becky Swanson, who has 10 children enrolled in her at-home childcare service in Lakeville, spoke at a State Capitol press conference on Monday, Nov. 28 announcing the filing of the law.
“I really think we have a very good case,” said Swanson, who has appeared at recent Capitol hearings in opposition to the daycare vote.
Her interest in the vote, which is planned for December and potentially could result in the unionization of some childcare providers, was originally aroused by bothersome union activists who contacted her at her business, explained Swanson, speaking after the press conference.
Swanson, who does not currently have state-subsidized daycare children enrolled in her childcare and therefore is not eligible to vote, in part objects to the unionization effort because it could result in a union bargaining with the state on issues affecting non-union child providers.
There are already childcare provider associations providers can join to be heard at the State Capitol, she argued.
The whole child care vote-idea is backward, opponents argue, because a minority of providers could have power over the majority of the 11,000 child care providers in the state choosing not to join the union.
Beyond the question of unionization, opponents argue that Gov. Dayton has no legal authority to call for the vote.
Tom Revnew, one of the attorneys representing the opponents, also argues the state Bureau of Mediation Services has no legal authority to design or conduct the election.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have been working towards the vote.
Their supporters argue that unionization could mean better benefits, higher pay, less onerous regulations, and that the vote simply provides an option for daycare providers to unionize or not.
Some of the groups backing the opponents include Education Liberty Watch, Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Majority and Minnesota Free Market Institute.
Dan McGrath, of the Minnesota Majority, said his group is financially backing the lawsuit. “It’s fundamentally wrong,” he said of the pending vote.
McGrath in an email said that Senate Republicans, who’ve recently indicated that they intended to file suit against the vote, were aware that Monday’s suit filing was coming.
Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci in a statement responded to the filing of the lawsuit.
“The debate around unionization of family childcare providers started years before Governor Dayton was elected to office,” she said.
“By refusing to call for an election, his predecessors denied licensed, registered family child care providers the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want to form a union. Governor Dayton believes they should have the right to make that decision.”
Eric Lehto, organizing director for AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
“Governor Dayton has legal authority to direct the Bureau of Mediation Services to conduct a union election and to determine appropriate bargaining units of child care providers. Voters in this election include only licensed, subsidized providers who have a direct financial relationship with the state of Minnesota,” Lehto said in a statement.
“If a majority of providers come together in a democratic process, Gov. Dayton will recognize their professional voice. Union membership will be voluntary and all providers will retain their constitutional right to participate in the policy making process.”