By Don Davis
A U.S. Supreme Court hearing that could affect a Minnesota law allowing child care workers to join unions took on broader interest during Tuesday’s arguments when it became apparent that justices could make a decision to ban forcing government workers to join unions.
The case from Illinois dealt with whether home medical care workers should join unions. The issue is similar to a Minnesota law, passed by a Democratic-controlled Legislature, that allows home child care workers to join unions. A court case over the Minnesota law is on hold until the U.S. high court rules on the Illinois case.
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said the case is important to Minnesota child care workers.
“While a ruling on this case is months away, its outcome will carry great significance for the hardworking parents and childcare providers of Minnesota,” said Franson, a former child care provider. “Allowing union bosses to insert themselves into the care of our children violates the sacred trust parents have with their childcare provider.”
Unions say they can help child care workers obtain better state payments and working conditions.
But the spotlight shifted to public unions in general during Tuesday’s hearing in Washington.
Lyle Denniston of the SCOTUSblog, which covers the Supreme Court, said the case appears to have become a test of public worker collective bargaining.
“Aside from what was said explicitly from the bench, the atmospherics of Tuesday’s argument suggested strongly that this case has very large potential,” Denniston wrote.
He said that Justice Antonin Scalia appeared to be the deciding vote on the issue.
Jennifer Parrish of Rochester, one of the child care workers who brought the Minnesota case and has fought unionization for years, was in the courtroom Tuesday.
“It was an incredibly moving experience to be present and hear oral arguments in the Harris case,” she said. “Throughout this eight-year ordeal, I have never lost my faith in our justice system.”
Parrish said that after listening to the justices, “I am confident” they will rule against forcing home care workers to join unions.