MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Opponents of unionized day care went to federal court Thursday to try to stop a new state law allowing a union vote. Federal District Judge Michael Davis says he’ll decide soon whether to issue a federal injunction, which would put the law on hold before a vote can take place.

The plan to unionize in home day care operators became a battle cry for critics and conservative groups. After Democratic lawmakers approved the plan in May, critics sued to stop it.

Minnesota lawmakers passed the bill this year allowing a union vote over loud protest from some day care operators and conservative groups — groups that Governor Mark Dayton says are funded by “right wing extremists.”

“These people and others want to dictate: No, you can’t join a union, because we say so and we have the money to back it up. And I think that’s a travesty,” Dayton said.

Only in home day care operators with children from families receiving state subsidies would be eligible to vote, and union membership is voluntary. But all day care owners would pay dues, and the union would negotiate day care rates and rules with the state.

“What harm could possibly be caused by allowing child care providers to choose for themselves whether or not they want a union?” Jennifer Munt of the Minnesota AFSCME said.

Day care operators who sued say if a union is approved, it will hurt poor children who get state money because many won’t accept them.

“I don’t need to be offering a hand up to someone while someone else has a hand in my back pocket taking the money back out,” Terrie Boyd, of Terrie’s Tots Childcare, said.

Opponents also say the vote is illegal and they shouldn’t be forced to join a union against their will.

We are our own business owners,” said Hollee Saville, of Happee Hollee’s Childcare. “We set our own wages, hours, working conditions. We do not want nor need a union.”

Union leaders call the lawsuit “frivolous” and say they are confident the judge will allow the union vote to proceed.

Pat Kessler