The debate over unionizing in-home child care workers is headed to court.
A group of providers opposed to unionization, partly funded by conservative groups, says it will file suit Monday afternoon to prevent unions from being formed. Lawyer Tom Revnew said the petition, to be filed in Ramsey County Courts, will seek to have Gov. Mark Dayton's executive order declared "null and void.''
Rather than merely seek to give all providers a voice in whether to unionize, as many union foes have argued, the lawsuit will argue that Dayton has no authority to allow such unions to be formed -- meaning no providers should be able to unionize in this way.
AFSCME and SEIU have been seeking to organize licensed, in-home child care providers, and asked Dayton to recognize them via executive order. His order Nov. 15 did not go that far. It authorized an election to determine who wants the union. The order limited the vote to those providers -- about 4,300 of 11,000 total -- who care for children receiving state subsidies. Dayton's order states that "nothing in this Order shall be construed to require participation, or the involuntary payment of dues by any family child care provider.''
But providers who oppose the union, such as Becky Swanson of Lakeville, who will be a plaintiff in Monday's suit, fear they will be affected by whatever the unions negotiate with the state, and worry that they will eventually be charged fees or dues by the union.
"All of us should have a right to vote,'' said Swanson, who said she is not eligible to vote. "Or let's set this aside, and let's go back to business.''
Revnew would not say who is paying legal bills. Dan McGrath of the Minnesota Majority said his organization is part of a coalition that partly funded the suit. Other groups, according to the website www.childcarefreedom.com, include the Minnesota Family Council, the Minnesota Free Market Institute, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Education Liberty Watch.
"The Minnesota Majority is interested in challenging government overreach,'' McGrath said. "That's part of our mission."
Revnew said he will argue that Dayton has no authority to issue the order, and also that by allowing only some providers to vote, he is violating the providers' constitutional right to equal protection under the laws.
Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said this debate "started years before Gov. Dayton was elected to office,'' when his predecessors "denied licensed, registered family child care providers the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want to form a union.'' She added, "Gov. Dayton believes they should have the right to make that decision.''