An End to Forced Unionization?

Kevin Mooney reviews the connidition of home child care providers and the litigation fighting for freedom on behalf of these workers.  The full story appears on

Without a steady stream of water and electricity, child-care service providers who typically operate out of their own homes could go out of business. Yet, hundreds of Rhode Island residents – not to mention others across the country — who offer these services must now pay union dues that can be used to support lobbying efforts aimed at securing anti-energy regulations at odds with their best interests.  Help is on the way in the form of First Amendment legal challenges filed in other states that have worked their way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that within a few months it may not be permissible for unions to force child care workers to pay part of their salary to support political campaigns that conflict with their own policy preferences and jeopardize their bottom line. Despite the shifting legal terrain, Rhode Island residents who operate these home-based businesses must still pony up; at least for the time being.

“This is a problem,” warns Jennifer Parrish, who runs a child care business out of her home in Minnesota, a state burdened with a similar arrangement. “The SEIU has been an active supporter of cap and trade policies that restrict emissions and restrict energy use. But in our business we need to keep the heat and air conditioner, we have the stove on for cooking and we need to keep the faucet running so the children can wash their hands. The reality is we have high electricity bills and any additional costs could shut down our business. This idea of purchasing credits for energy use under cap and trade is just unworkable for us.”

Parrish is the lead plaintiff in a suit filed with the District Court in Minneapolis, Minn. on behalf of child-care business operators who are challenging the state’s unionization law on First Amendment grounds. . . But much to the consternation of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which has spent the past several years working to organize Minnesota’s child-care providers, the Parrish case remains active at the appellate level.  That’s why Mike Stenhouse, president of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, called on the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB) to cancel the unionization election in his state.

On Jan. 21, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Harris v. Quinn, a case out of Illinois that was initially turned back by the Seventh Circuit of Appeals. Pamela Harris, the primary caregiver of her disabled son, and other personal care assistants, are challenging the authority of the Illinois state government to categorize them as public employees. This was accomplished through a series of executive orders and a state law passed in January 2013 that expands the definition of state employees to include Medicaid-funded home care workers. Harris is also advancing a First Amendment challenge against the collection of union dues that intersect with the arguments made in the Parrish case. That’s why the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has imposed an injunction against any potential union election in Minnesota. A ruling in favor of the Harris plaintiffs would cancel out that part of Minnesota law that identifies child-care workers as public employees; meaning they could not be coerced in joining public employee unions.