Supreme Court Decision Could Doom Home Day Care Unionization in Minn.

Updated: 06/30/2014 10:19 PM
Created: 06/30/2014 7:52 PM
By: Stephen Tellier

The effort to unionize home day care workers in Minnesota could be doomed after a major ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case in question involved unionizing home health care workers in Illinois. The Supreme Court decided such workers cannot be forced to pay union dues.

There was a flurry of press conferences and statements from gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota after the ruling came down. Republicans praised the Supreme Court, while Gov. Mark Dayton accused the court of rolling back the cause of civil rights.

For Clarissa Johnston, it's a profession. But it's also priceless.

"I get to see those 'A-ha!' moments in children's lives," Johnston said.

She's been caring for children at her Mounds View home for 27 years, and said it's time workers like her spoke with a collective voice.

"This is about uplifting my profession that I've been involved with for so many years, for us to be looked at beyond babysitters, as the professionals that we are," Johnston said.

But her hope of unionizing home day care workers across Minnesota took a hit on Monday.

"I'm not going to let right-wing extremists rob me of my rights," Johnston said.

"It's not a surprising opinion," said Fred Finch, an employment and labor attorney with Bassford Remele, unaffiliated with the Illinois and Minnesota cases.

Finch broke down the Supreme Court's decision, pointing out that the ruling doesn't mean such workers can't form a union, and doesn't mean such workers can't vote to form a union -- it simply means those workers can't be forced to pay union dues.

But Finch said that alone could cripple day care worker unionization efforts in Minnesota because those who don't want to join won't pay dues -- the dollars then don't add up.

"I think it's very likely that the result will be that this is an economically nonviable situation for the unions that seek to represent them," Finch said.

Some are now predicting home day care unionization efforts in Minnesota will eventually be abandoned.

Supporters say, 'No way.'

"I feel justice won't be served until family child care providers can vote on whether or not we want a union," Johnston said.

An appeals court judge was waiting for this Supreme Court ruling before weighing in on the case involving day care unionization in Minnesota. That means a ruling in the Minnesota case is likely coming in the near future, and it likely won't be favorable for union supporters.

It's also important to note that the Supreme Court ruling only applies to a very small, specific set of workers, and does not impact the vast majority of union workers.

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