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The move to organize 12,500 in-home child-care providers into a unit of one of Minnesota’s largest public-employee unions was put on hold by a federal appeals court Thursday.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction temporarily blocking Minnesota’s hotly contested unionization law, which has roiled the business of home child care, become a potent political issue and attracted national attention from both sides of the union movement.
“I am on cloud nine,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester provider who has campaigned against a union and was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Having the law enjoined at least gives us bit of security knowing they can’t bring us an election any time soon.”
“It’s a temporary roadblock that doesn’t stop us from organizing,” responded Jennifer Munt, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which is organizing child-care providers. “We are moving full-speed ahead, because child-care providers want a union.”
The order will continue at least until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to accept an appeal in a related case involving union organizing of care workers in Illinois. Both the Minnesota and Illinois appeals are being handled by the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose stated mission is to “eliminate coercive union power.”
“Minnesota’s child-care providers are no longer under imminent threat to be forcibly unionized in a union they want nothing to do with,” Patrick Semmens, vice president of the foundation, said in a statement about Thursday’s ruling.
A spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton said he is reviewing the case and continues to support the right of these workers to vote on whether to join a union. Dayton has blamed the legal challenges on “right-wing extremists.”
The one-sentence order granting the injunction was a temporary victory for union opponents and a setback for AFSCME.
Both sides have been making their case to providers this summer, trying to prepare for a union election that could take place any time in the next four years.
There is no reason that work can’t continue while the legal wheels turn.
A long fight and not over
The battle has raged in providers’ living rooms, at the State Capitol and in courtrooms for more than eight years, part of a national union-organizing effort that has resulted in similar battles in more than 15 states.
Dayton initially sought to call for an election through an executive order, but that was shot down by a judge in 2012. Once a labor-friendly, DFL-controlled Legislature took office this year, a law squeaked through calling for union elections. Opponents again went to court with two separate lawsuits, but Chief U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis ruled in June that the cases were not “ripe” because the opponents had suffered no harm as yet.
That ruling was appealed, resulting in Thursday’s injunction blocking the state law from going into effect.
The Minnesota law applies to two separate groups — child-care workers who are involved with the state subsidy program, numbering about 12,500 and to be organized by AFSCME, and personal care assistants (PCAs), numbering about 9,000, to be organized by the Service Employees International Union.
A lawyer for union opponents said Thursday’s ruling applies only to the child-care workers’ union and does not affect the attempt to unionize PCAs.
The related case cited by the appeals court is Harris vs. Quinn, an unsuccessful challenge to unionization of home-care workers in Illinois. Lawyers for the plaintiffs — the same organization representing Parrish in the Minnesota case — have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court has not decided yet whether it will accept the case.