- - Monday, June 17, 2013

Last month, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a bill that designates home-based child care and personal care providers, many of whom are self-employed business owners, as state workers solely for the purpose of forcing them into union ranks.

The bill, which effectively codifies an unlawful executive order dictated by Mr. Dayton, gives American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and the Service Employees International Union organizers the power to become the exclusive political representatives for thousands of providers who care for children of low-income parents and families who receive state subsidies.

Starting next month, union organizers will descend on Minnesota’s home-based child care providers, performing door-to-door “home visits” to browbeat unsuspecting care providers to sign over their right to represent themselves.

As a result, state funding that is earmarked to low-income families will instead go into union bosses’ political coffers. Executing the plan perfectly, corrupt union bosses will then funnel millions of dollars to the campaigns of pro-forced unionism politicians.

The mandated political association that is occurring in Minnesota is hardly new. This union boss quid pro quo was popularized by disgraced former Democratic Govs. Gray Davis of California and Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. Home-based child care and personal care providers are subject to similar forced-unionization-by-government-fiat schemes in several states across the country.

In many cases, a large number of providers were not even aware of these schemes until it was too late. Other providers who wanted nothing to do with the union when they found out about the schemes never received a union card, petition or ballot and thus had no say in the matter.

As self-employed child care providers, they should not have to worry about being unionized. Unionizing small businesses and self-employed individuals turns the concept of unionization on its head, stripping it of any meaning except as a device to funnel dues to politically connected union officials.

This scheme, which dragoons small-business owners, and even grandma taking care of her grandchildren, into union political association is a slap in the face of fundamental American principles we hold dear. Such schemes violate providers’ First Amendment right to choose with whom they associate to petition the government. The government does not constitutionally have the power to force citizens to accept its handpicked political representation to lobby itself.

Fortunately, providers in numerous states, including Minnesota, filed legal challenges to these corrupt schemes. On June 6, the U.S. Supreme Court met in conference on Harris v. Quinn, one such legal challenge.

With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a courageous group of personal care providers in Illinois, led by Pam Harris, a Chicago-area home care provider who cares for her developmentally disabled son, filed a class-action federal lawsuit challenging a law enacted by the former governor, Blagojevich, and an executive order dictated by current Gov. Pat Quinn, exposing them to forced unionization.

The court requested a brief from the U.S. solicitor general on the issues presented in Harris, which indicated a heightened interest on the justices’ part and could bode well for Ms. Harris’ chances to present her case in Washington. The justices will likely announce Monday whether they will take the case.

Citizens have the power to select their representatives in government, not the other way around. Thanks to the courageous stand of Ms. Harris and other providers, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to strike down Big Labor political-payback schemes such as the one just enacted in Minnesota.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

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