Apr 18, 2012

New Developments in the Childcare Unionization Battle

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Since our last childcare union update, much has happened in the battle to preserve the rights of parents and independent private and religious childcare providers.  First, Ramsey County District Judge Dale Lindman turned his temporary injunction against Governor Mark Dayton’s executive order for a childcare union election from November of 2011 into a permanent one.

In a beautifully written April 6th order that restores some hope that constitutions still matter, Judge Lindman wrote:

Executive Order 11-31 is null and void because it is an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature’s constitutional right to make and or amend laws and as such is a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine

The brave group of group of childcare providers; the dedicated attorneys – Thomas Revnew and Douglas Seaton; the Childcare Freedom Coalition led by the excellent work of Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority; the amicus brief by the Minnesota Senate; and the support of the Minnesota House all deserve great credit and deep gratitude.  Education Liberty Watch was honored to be a part of this strong team and heartily thanks you, our supporters, for your help and encouragement on this important issue of business, fiscal and parental freedom.

The other major development is that the Minnesota Senate passed HF 1766 on April 16th, authored by Senator Ted Lillie (R-Lake Elmo), which is identical to the bill authored by Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Woodbury) in the  House.  This bill adds one simple sentence to statute forbidding union dues or fair share fees from being taken out of childcare subsidies.   While the House bill passed on February 9th with bipartisan support (p. 5493), the Senate vote(p.5858) was completely party line. [Democrat Representatives John Benson, Patti Fritz, Mindy Greiling, Kory Kath, Kim Norton, Gene Pelowski joined all of the Republicans except for Rep. Steve Smith, who voted “nay,” in supporting the bill.]

The bill is now being sent to Governor Dayton who, given his strong alliances with unions and the amount of union contributions he has received, would probably veto it on his own. However, he may consider signing it as part of other end of session negotiations.

Still awaiting possible action is HF 2964 by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) that would do for the early childhood scholarships in the Dept. of Education exactly what the Lohmer/Lillie bill would do for childcare subsidies in the Dept. of Human Services. Rep. Franson has been a very brave champion for the rights of childcare providers as well as parents during this whole discussion, for employee freedom in general, and for the need to deal with welfare issues that foster dependency and out of wedlock childbearing, with all of those associated pathologies .  She has withstood nasty verbal attacks, misogynistic slurs and even death threats to her and her family, unfortunately with little support even from her own caucus for her willingness to stand firm on this issue. Neither has she received any denunciation from the Democrat leadership who are always whining about the need for a “new tone” or more “civil discourse.”

None of that has stopped Rep. Franson from standing for what is right. In her March 16th Star Tribune op-ed, she said:

Being a pale imitation of the DFL — which has not had a new political idea in more than half a century — is not why I ran for office. It is most assuredly not why voters elected me…There is still time, one supposes, for something important and novel to break through the deadening conformity of the House and Senate, something closer to the inspiring examples of Republicans in Wisconsin and New Jersey.

After the court’s decision, Education Liberty Watch had initially thought that neither bill would be necessary.  However, statements by the governor and the unions call that assessment into question. Governor Dayton has said that he disagrees with the decision and his office is contemplating whether or not to appeal. Attorney Doug Seaton, in a Star Tribune op-ed, gave the most important reason among many why the governor should not pursue appeal, saying:

Imposing unions on independent small businesses in one industry, simply because they are regulated by the state or have some connection to state subsidies, creates a dangerous precedent that could be used as a model for forcing businesses in other regulated industries to submit to unionization threats and forcing state taxpayers to fund union dues payments.

Given the strength of judge’s rejection of his scheme and the fact that the taxpayers of Minnesota are now on the hook for the court costs from this first suit, an appeal would likely be a costly and ineffective.  Unfortunately, that has never stopped politicians intent on having their way.

In addition, union officials are vowing to work to proceed with their forced unionization scheme no matter what.  AFSCME put out a release headlined, “Pro-union child care providers forge ahead.”

Given this situation, childcare providers supporting the bill are rightly concerned that if it does not pass they will no longer be able to provide care for children receiving these subsidies.  A letter signed by 639 providers was delivered to the governor right after the Senate bill passed on the 16th. The letter contained these statements:

Many child care providers now state they will make a personal business decision to discontinue offering care to current and future CCAP funded families if union dues or fees are part of the program…Some have already stopped accepting new CCAP families because they believe it is only a matter of time before fees are associated with the program.

1) Governor Dayton can be called (651-201-3400) and urged both to sign the childcare subsidy bill and to drop further appeals in the union election lawsuit for the sake of costs to taxpayers, choice for parents, and for maintaining providers for the childcare subsidy programs.

2) The legislative leadership can be called both to thank them for their support of the childcare providers and consumers in the lawsuit and of the union legislation, as well as to ask them to attach Rep. Franson’s bill to other legislation in order to protect the early child scholarships for poor children from being raided for union dues the same way that they so ably defended the childcare subsidies.


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