Taxpayers to pay $60K in legal fees for failed child-care unionization effort

  • Article by: BAIRD HELGESON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 29, 2013 - 10:15 PM

Governor’s staff negotiates the settlement down in home child-care unionization suit.

 

Minnesota taxpayers will pay $60,000 in legal fees for those who successfully fought an executive order by Gov. Mark Dayton calling for a unionization vote of home child-care providers.

The plaintiffs convinced a state court that the governor exceeded his constitutional authority when he called for the unionization vote two years ago.

“This fee payment illustrates that the real extremist in the child-care unionization scheme is the governor, who ignored the constitutional limitations on his own authority to do political favors for his union friends,” said plaintiff Becky Swanson. Dayton did it at the expense of “us self-employed child-care providers who resisted this overreach.”

A spokesman for Dayton said that the plaintiffs originally wanted $214,000 to pay for legal fees and costs, but that the governor’s staff negotiated the amount down to $60,000.

“If anybody drove up the costs for taxpayers, it was the plaintiffs and not the governor,” said Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson.

DFLers and Republicans in the Legislature have fought bitterly for years over efforts to unionize 4,300 home child-care workers who get state subsidies to care for their charges.

The unions pushing the measure say it can help home child-care workers secure better reimbursement rates at a time when state leaders are relentlessly trying to trim costs.

Republicans said the measure would merely strengthen unions from the increased dues they would collect and drive up government costs through the higher reimbursement rates.

“This is a victory for the hardworking child-care providers of Minnesota,” said Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria. “Governor Dayton’s attempt to unilaterally impose a union election on child-care providers needlessly wasted $60,000 of taxpayer dollars. … Now the taxpayers are on the hook to clean up his mistake.”

After Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman threw out Dayton’s executive order, the newly elected DFL-controlled Legislature passed a measure calling for a similar unionization vote for state-backed home child-care workers and home-health aides. Dayton signed the measure into law.

A group of home child-care operators filed a new lawsuit to block the vote. That challenge was rejected by a federal judge but the law remains on hold while the case is considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

“We plan to continue to resist the new unionization legislation,” said Hollee Saville, a home-based child-care provider.

Union advocates, however, continue to predict they will prevail. Dayton has accused opponents of throwing up endless legal roadblocks in an attempt to prevent providers from voting on whether to unionize.

 

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044

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