Judge throws out Dayton’s executive order calling for child care unionization vote

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

Ramsey County District Court Judge Dale Lindman has thrown out an executive order by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton calling for a unionization vote among some 4,300 Minnesota child care providers.

In his order, Lindman declares Dayton’s executive order “mull and void because it’s an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature’s constitutional right to create and or amend laws and as such is a violation of the Separations of Powers doctrine.”

In his legal analysis, Lindman notes that Dayton issued his executive order based on claims from union officials that the majority of child care workers in the state desired to be represented for the purpose of negotiating with the state.

However, Lindman argues, no employer-employee relationship exists between the child care providers and the state.

Although state law does not require a employer-employee relationship to exist in labor disputes, the definition of labor dispute has not been expanded to include controversy in which the employer-employee relationship has no bearing.

Because employer-employee relations are not involved in this dispute, the Minnesota Bureau of Labor Mediation — the agency designated to carry out the child care provider vote — does not have the authority to intervene, Lindman argues.

Dayton is attempting to circumvent the legislative process and unionize child care providers by executive order rather than adhere to valid legislative process, the judge argues.

“In doing so, the governor had improperly superseded the Legislature’s authority and violated the separation of posers clause as set forth in the Minnesota Constitution,” said Lindman in his ruling.

The ruling may not be wholly unexpected.

Lindman halted the proposed unionization election in December, arguing at the time the question of holding an election needed to first go before the Legislature.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said in a statement, “We disagree with the judge’s decision, but respect it. We are still reviewing the order, and have no further comment at this point.”

Lisa Thompson, a St. Paul day care provider and Child Care Providers Together spokeswoman, and other unionization vote supporters view unionization as a means of providing stability to a struggling industry.

Thompson testified before a Senate committee last fall in favor of the unionization vote.

But House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, views the matter differently.

“Today’s decision from Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman is a victory for child care providers and small, independent businesses in Minnesota,” said Zellers in a statement.

“It affirms what we have told Governor Dayton since he first called for the unconstitutional union election of child care providers: lawmaking is a function solely entrusted to the Minnesota Legislature,” he said in part.

House Health and Human Services Finance Committee Chairman Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said the proposal to unionize child care providers never made sense to him.

If child care workers at a given daycare provider wanted to unionize, that would be one thing, he explained. But it didn’t make sense to unionize a private business, he added.

“I’m glad he (Lindman) found that,” said Abeler of the ruling.

Dayton was overstepping his rightful authority in pursuing a bad idea, Abeler said.

Under the current political makeup at the Legislature — Republicans controlling House and Senate — approving such a unionization vote would “never” happen, explained Abeler.