A pair of lawsuits seeking to invalidate legislation that allows in-home child-care providers to join unions were dismissed by a federal judge on Sunday. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis determined that the claims were not yet “ripe” because any potential damages have not yet occurred.
“They do not assert any current injury, when no union election has been announced, no voting has occurred, no union has been certified, no collective bargaining has occurred, and no financial contribution to any union has been required,” Davis wrote in his order.
The lawsuits brought by child care providers argued that the legislation violates federal labor laws and the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions. For instance, they argued that their rights to equal protection would be violated because child care providers who do not take care of kids that are eligible for state subsidies would not be able to vote in any union election.
But Davis determined that there is a significant difference between providers that receive state dollars through the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and those that don’t. Minnesota anticipates spending $215 million on child care subsidies in 2013.
“One group receives the CCAP subsidies and is directly affected by them, and the other group does not receive the subsidies and is not directly affected by them,” Davis wrote. “The subsidized group has a regulatory and economic relationship with the State regarding provision of CCAP-subsidized services, the other does not.”
The ruling clears the way for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 5 to try and organize child care workers who take care of kids eligible for state subsidies. By AFSCME’s estimate, that is potentially 12,700 workers. But the union must clear a number of hurdles before it can represent workers at the bargaining table. For starters, AFSCME must submit signatures from 500 potential members indicating interest in union representation. Then the union must show that at least 30 percent of potential members have signed cards indicating support for collective bargaining. Finally there would be a mail-in election to determine if a majority of those workers want to unionize. AFSCME (or any other union) has a four year window in which to complete all of those steps.
The legislation also allows personal care assistants to seek union representation. But those employees were not included in the two federal lawsuits. The Service Employees International Union is currently trying to organize those workers.
Gov. Mark Dayton initially sought to authorize child care workers to join unions through an executive order. But a Ramsey County District Judge ruled last year that Dayton had overstepped his executive authority. On Sunday, Dayton issued a statement praising the most recent legal action on the volatile issue.
“I believe that working men and women should have the right to vote on forming a union, and that the Court’s decisions will permit such an election to be held,” Dayton said.
One of the Republicans seeking to replace Dayton in the governor’s office, Sen. Dave Thompson, of Lakeville, issued a statement decrying the dismissal of the cases. “Rest assured if I am honored to be your next governor, I would make it a priority to repeal this ill advised and harmful law,” Thompson said. “This is an example of special interest politics at its worst, and Minnesotans should not stand for it.”