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Judge blocks union vote for child care providers

ST. PAUL (AP) — A Ramsey County judge on Monday blocked a unionization vote by Minnesota child care workers that was to get underway this week, saying the issue must go through the state Legislature.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the Democratic governor exceeded his powers with the executive order setting up the election.

“If unionization of day care is to become the law of Minnesota, it must first be submitted to the lawmaking body of the state,” Judge Dale Lindman said after hearing three hours of testimony.

Lindman also said he was “bothered” that less than half of the state’s 11,000 in-home child care workers were eligible to vote in the election. Eligibility was extended to about 4,300 providers who are currently licensed to receive state subsidies to care for low-income children.

Attorneys from the state attorney general’s office, who represented the governor, said they would wait for Dayton to comment. He had told reporters prior to the ruling he was confident in his legal authority but would “defer to the court at this point and see what they say.”

Two Minnesota unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, had been seeking the union vote for several years. Proponents argued that providers who operate in part on state subsidies had the right to organize and bargain with state agencies over subsidy rates as well as other rules and regulations governing in-home care.

But critics said many providers ineligible to participate in the vote would still be affected by many of the matters that would have bargained between a child care workers union and the state. The plaintiffs were a group of child care providers, with assistance from a coalition of conservative-leaning groups.

While Lindman’s ruling pushed the issue into the hands of lawmakers, it’s unlikely Republicans who currently control the state House and Senate would oblige the unionization drive. Multiple legislative leaders criticized Dayton for ordering the union vote, and lawyers for the Republican Senate majority even filed a brief supporting the lawsuit.

Ballots were to be mailed out starting Tuesday and would have been tallied on Dec. 22.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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