- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A conservative group has filed a lawsuit against Washington state and a Service Employees International Union local, challenging the union’s role as the exclusive representative for thousands of subsidized day care providers.

The Seattle Times reports ( https://bit.ly/1Kye2mj ) the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based think tank, filed the federal lawsuit this week on behalf of four family home-care providers who didn’t want to pay union fees.

The backers of the lawsuit say they hope to get a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending the longstanding right of unions like SEIU to act as exclusive bargaining units for entire groups of workers.

“If we’re successful … we will leave every worker, every provider, every citizen free to decide for themselves what they want to do about unions,” said Milton Chappell, senior staff attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, a Virginia-based organization also aiding in the class-action lawsuit.

Elizabeth Ford, a labor-law expert and visiting professor at Seattle University School of Law, said the stakes are high.

“The viability of public-sector unions in Washington state is at stake in this litigation,” she told the Times in an email. The case challenges “a central proposition” in U.S. labor law since the New Deal - that a union, once elected by a majority of workers in a workplace, has the authority to bargain on their behalf, Ford said.

An SEIU 925 leader said the case was an attack by anti-labor forces and noted only four people signed on as plaintiffs, out of about 7,000 child-care providers represented by the union.

“We’re standing strong,” said Marie Keller, family child-care provider chapter president for the union. Keller said providers have won big gains since the union was certified to represent them in 2006, getting higher subsidy payments, training and other benefits.

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