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Lawsuit seeks to halt home care worker union vote

ST. PAUL -- A group of home care workers has filed suit in federal court to block the latest effort to unionize their ranks.

Nine providers, with assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, sued Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials along with the Service Employees International Union on Monday in federal district court claiming the unionization effort violates constitutional guarantees of free expression and association.

“This scheme, which forces relatives taking care of persons with disabilities into union political association is a slap in the face of fundamental American principles we hold dear,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, in a statement. “In effect Governor Dayton is picking the SEIU as the lobbyists for Minnesota’s personal care providers as payback for the union bosses’ support and political contributions.”

Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson issued a statement saying “This is just another extremist right wing group trying to tell Minnesotans that they cannot decide for themselves whether to vote to form a union.”

On July 8, SEIU officials filed 9,000 cards with the state signed by home care workers calling for a union election this summer.

That action followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a similar group of home care workers in Illinois could not collect “fair share” payments from workers who did not want to join their union.

The ruling narrowly spoke to the issue of fair share payments, not whether unions can be formed.

In 2013, Dayton signed into law DFL-backed legislation allowing certain home care workers and some child care providers the chance to organize and collectively bargain in public employee unions.

Two lawsuits focusing on the child-care piece were filed to block the law, and both were dismissed last July by a federal judge in Minneapolis.

An appeal was filed, and a federal appeals court in September temporarily blocked implementation of the law pending the Supreme Court ruling.

The appeals court ruling was directed at the child-care provider portion of the law, and Monday’s action challenges the law based on the home-care provider portion, which had some urgency given the planned election this summer, said Anthony Riedel, a spokesman for the foundation.

The union proposed by home care workers in Minnesota would represent about 26,000 people.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.