It’s easy to understand why unions are taking to such tactics. It’s tough to be a union these days. Overall union membership has declined dramatically, cut nearly in half since 1983. The rise of the Tea Party, the advent of alternative media, and the increasing effectiveness of grassroots political action have undermined the unions’ political dominance. Tens of millions of dollars spent to affect elections have yielded disappointing results. States and municipalities have begun to rebel against overly generous compensation schedules and benefit packages. All said, unions are having a hard time maintaining their iron grip on the taxpayer’s throat. It’s not as easy as it used to be. They need more members to coerce into political action. They need to siphon more money from the very people whose interests they work against. And they need evermore influence in the corridors of power.
Unionizing home-based childcare providers is a great way to make that happen. It opens up an entire segment of a booming industry to political and economic exploitation. Thousands of new members and hundreds of thousands of newly coerced dollars are ripe for the taking in states like Minnesota and Connecticut, where efforts are underway to bring in the harvest.
In an act that smacks of political payback for help in winning his 2010 election, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota signed an executive order directing his Bureau of Mediation Services to conduct a vote among the roughly 4,300 home-based childcare providers whose customers receive subsidies for care. That’s a minority of the 11,000 home-based providers in the state. However, all providers would be affected by the outcome of the vote.
Details regarding how the vote might proceed and whether providers would be required to join the new union or pay some kind of “fair share” dues are scarce. Union representatives say they can’t speculate as to how the providers might organize before it actually happens. But we know how these things tend to pan out.
The good news is that, even before Governor Dayton signed the executive order, diverse political interests came together as the Childcare Freedom coalition to fight back. Aiding them is the Republican-led Minnesota Senate, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit challenging the governor’s authority to author labor law through executive fiat.