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Federal judge pauses child care union effort

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ST. PAUL — An election to unionize some Minnesota child care providers will be delayed.

The National Right to Work Foundation said Thursday evening a federal appeals court stopped implementation of a new state law that would allow child care providers to decide if they want to join a union. The foundation released the information after courts had closed for the day.

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"The court ruled to delay implementation of the law pending the outcome of a National Right to Work Foundation-led challenge pending at the U.S. Supreme Court of a similar law passed in Illinois," Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens said.

The high court has not scheduled a date when it will hear the Illinois case.

Several states have passed laws that allow providers who own child care operations, and receive state subsidies, to join unions. The foundation is challenging many of those laws on the grounds business owners should not be eligible to join unions.

Supporters of the movement say a union would give providers more leverage when dealing with state officials on financial matters and rules.

Opponents were happy.

"Today’s ruling from the federal appeals court is the first step to remedy the injustice done by Democrats in St. Paul to the hardworking child care providers and parents of Minnesota," Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said Thursday night. "As a former child care provider, I know firsthand we don’t need big union bosses increasing costs and creating fewer options for the care of our precious children."

The ruling came after a federal judge in July tossed out cases against the Minnesota law, saying the lawsuits were too early since the election had not even been scheduled.

"Their claim is not ripe," Judge Michael Davis wrote.

Opponents appealed, leading to Thursday’s ruling.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plans to conduct the election. The union made no immediate comment Thursday night.

Earlier, AFSCE spokeswoman Jennifer Munt said the union was visiting 12,700 providers in the initial process that could lead to a statewide unionization election. No date had been set for the election.

After the Davis ruling, both sides said the legal fight would be a long one.

"While the legal battle over this law is far from over, I’m happy Minnesota moms and dads and their child care providers can be breath a little easier for now as the threat of forced childcare unionization is no longer imminent," Franson said Thursday night.

The National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys provided free help to the dozen Minnesota unionization opponents who challenged the law.

The latest fight over the issue comes in Rhode Island, where a law similar to the Minnesota one recently was enacted.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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