Dec 9, 2011

Judge Strikes a Blow for Freedom – Dayton to Challenge

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As mentioned in our last alert, a lawsuit was filed in Ramsey County by a group of childcare providers trying to stop the unionization of home based childcare providers via an election ordered by Governor Mark Dayton using an executive order.  This has been seen as a payback to two major public employee labor unions.  Only about 4300 of the state’s 11,000 childcare workers would have been able to vote, but the decision made by the union in negotiations with the state would have affected the entire group.  The suit was supported by the MN Senate which filed a friend of the court brief.  This was after an excellent letter was sent by the House leadership asking for the election to be stopped and then rejected by the governor.  On Monday December 5th,  Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the mailing of ballots scheduled for December 7th.

There were two major legal and freedom issues underlying  the judge’s decision.  The first was the separation of powers issue.  Although the judge was not trying to interfere with the governor’s power to issue an executive order even to order a unionization election, he apparently saw that that power only extended to authorizing the election for public employees.  Since even those childcare providers that receive government subsidies are still private sector employers and business owners, not state employees, he seems to rightly understand that a change of law would be required that cannot be accomplished merely by an executive order.  Judge Lindman stated,  “If unionization of day care is to become the law of Minnesota, it must first be submitted to the lawmaking body of the state.”

The other major issue involved in the decision to issue the TRO was the unequal implementation of this election.  Unionization opponents rightly argued that all childcare providers in the state should be able to vote in the election, not just the 4300 that receive government subsidies, because decisions on regulations and standards negotiated by the unions would affect all of the providers.  The judge agreed when he said that he was “bothered” by the unequal implementation and that conducting the election in that manner would have been “very harmful to all parties involved.”  It is very ironic that the governor still thinks that his methods are proper, saying after the judge’s decision, “”I continue to believe that in a democracy, people should have rights to elections to determine their own destinies,” when in fact this lack of equal protection would have had a minority of providers “determining the destiny” for the majority.

Thankfully, the judge understood the assault on freedom and good government that this executive order and the election represented.  On a much different scale, his wise decision kept December 7th from becoming a new kind of “Day of Infamy” with regard to government and union tyranny that would have increased government and union control resulting in increased regulations and cost and decreased quality, choice, and access. Freedom for parents to raise and educate their children, including childcare, as they see fit and for these independent businesses to continue are among the many freedoms that the brave men killed 70 years ago and the many others before and since died to protect.

However, although this battle is won, the war is not over.  This was only a temporary restraining order and another hearing is scheduled for January 16th.  Although it seems that the judge is sympathetic to the views of those opposing unionization, there is more that needs to be done. Just as this alert is being prepared, the governor’s office has announced that he will contest the issuance of the temporary injunction next month.

In addition, as the legislature prepares to reconvene in January, a related issue needs to be discussed.  The governor’s unilateral expansion of the quality rating system (QRS) that is supported by the big business groups combined with the legislature’s ill-considered decision to spend money on early childhood scholarships will create more providers receiving subsidies.  This will feed into the Dayton/union view that any business or individual that has customers that receive government subsidies are subject to unionization, therefore creating a bigger pool of providers that would be in favor of unionization.  It will be very important for the legislature to not only continue their brave fight against childcare unionization and pass right to work legislation in this state, but also to resist the Dayton/big business plans to further expand the QRS either in the state or as part of the Race to the Top initiative.

Here is what you can do:
1) Support the freedoms of independent childcare business, the families they serve and all of us as overburdened taxpayers by contributing to the legal costs to stop this vote.

2) Keep informed about this situation by continuing to follow alerts at Education Liberty Watch, Child Care Freedom and and please tell your friends, especially if they are childcare providers.

3)  Please thank the House and Senate leadership and other legislators for their efforts to stop this vote.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch 651-296-5981

Senate Health & Human Services Chairman David Hann 651-296-1749

Senate State Government Chairman Mike Parry 651-296-9457

House Speaker Kurt Zellers  651-296-5502

House Majority Leader Matt Dean 651-296-3018

Rep, Mary Franson 651-296-3201

4) Please remind the leadership and your own legislators that the quality rating system and Race to the Top will make stopping the union efforts more difficult as well as unnecessarily expand the role of both the state and federal governments in children’s lives and providers businesses.


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