Court refuses to halt day care union drive

Published 11:00 am Monday, July 29, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has refused to halt a drive to unionize thousands of Minnesota home day care operators.

In a pair of rulings issued Sunday, Judge Michael Davis essentially agreed with state Solicitor General Alan Gilbert that the pair of lawsuits seeking to halt the unionization effort were filed prematurely. Davis dismissed both cases and refused to impose a preliminary injunction on a new law allowing the drive.

Democrats who control the Legislature approved the union-organizing drive in May. The GOP has accused legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton of paying back union allies.

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The proposed union would cover some 12,700 providers who take care of children who are subsidized by the state.

Dayton tried to call the union vote through executive order in 2011, but opponents won a state court order invalidating the move.

There was some urgency to Sunday’s rulings. After Wednesday, the union pushing to organize the in-home day care operators can start the petition drive that might ultimately lead to an election.

In both cases, Davis said the day care owners who filed the lawsuits couldn’t prove actual harm by the process playing out as lawmakers have set out.

“At this time, the state statute does not require Plaintiffs to associate with a union, be represented by a union, engage in collective bargaining, or pay money to any union,” Davis wrote in one of his two opinions. “Plaintiffs may never be required to do any of these things. No injury is certainly impending. Their claim is not ripe.”

In the other, he said he wouldn’t grant a request to “peer into a crystal ball, predict the future, and then opine on the constitutionality of a speculative scenario.”

Douglas Seaton, an attorney for some of the day care owners, said they would be considering an appeal or might refile the case later.

“This challenge is not over,” Seaton wrote. “We remain convinced that home child care providers like the plaintiffs are not subject to unionization by the state under this statute.”

Dayton hailed the ruling in statement released Sunday night.

“I am very pleased that both lawsuits seeking to prevent child care providers from deciding for themselves whether or not to form a union have been dismissed,” Dayton said in the statement.

A spokeswoman for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees local that is pursuing unionization didn’t immediately return a request for comment.