Child Care Providers to Challenge Unionization in Federal Court

National Right to Work Foundation assisting providers in challenging constitutionality

ST. PAUL, MN- A group of child care providers from across Minnesota plan to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis as soon as today challenging child care unionization on constitutional grounds. Providers told the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) that they will ask a federal judge to rule on constitutional issues raised by the planned vote by providers with subsidized children in their care.

In November, Governor Mark Dayton issued an executive order calling for thousands of in-home child care providers to vote on unionization, but a Ramsey County judge has since issued a temporary restraining order barring the vote.

“We wish we didn’t have to be in this position to begin with,” said Jennifer Parrish, a child care provider from Rochester. “But since we were put in this position we do believe that this violates our first amendment rights and we intend to argue that in court.”.

The federal lawsuit will contend the union effort authorized by Governor Dayton’s executive order on November 15, 2011 violates the providers’ first amendment right of free political expression and association. The National Right to Work Foundation, a nonprofit legal aid association based in Washington, DC, has offered free legal assistance to child care providers who are battling what they view as compulsory unionization.

“The allegation is going to be that it’s unconstitutional, that the first amendment guarantees everyone the right to choose with whom they associate to petition government and that the government can’t choose who’s going to represent providers for lobbying the state,” said Bill Messenger, an attorney with the National Right to Work Foundation who’s working on the case.

Only 4,300 providers, out of a statewide total of 11,000, would be allowed to vote in the union election. Notably, twice that many providers (8,609) have previously accepted or say they are willing to accept children who receive subsidies, according to a recent provider survey.

“It’s something we feel very passionate about.  We would like to be able to choose who represents us or we’d like to represent ourselves,” Parrish said. “We don’t want anybody speaking on our behalf to our legislators at the Capitol or lobbying on our behalf, especially when they’ve shown their interests can be very different from our interests.”

The federal lawsuit is the second major legal action resulting from the controversial child care unionization issue. At a scheduled February 22nd hearing, Ramsey County District Court Judge Dale Lindman will weigh a motion for summary judgment on whether to block the union election.  In December, Lindman issued a temporary restraining order preventing the election, indicating the state legislature was a more appropriate venue to decide the issue. The unions and Governor Dayton are contesting the decision.

The federal court action takes a broader approach, raising constitutional issues that could have a far-reaching impact in Minnesota and across the nation. In recent years, labor unions have gone state-by-state seeking to find ways to bring home child care providers under union jurisdiction, gradually gaining a foothold in thirteen states.

“If they’re allowed to get away with it, this type of scheme could be applied to almost anybody, virtually any kind of business in this state, from hair dressers to grocery stores that are regulated by the state or care for people who are on state assistance,” said Bill Messenger, an attorney with National Right to Work Foundation.  “I mean if you can do it to home daycare providers there’s no reason you can’t do it to a whole host of industries.”

See interviews with Bill Messenger and Jennifer Parrish below:


Tips or comments?  Contact Tom Steward at 612-354-2192.


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