When last we left Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and his attempt to shanghai independent day-care workers into a public-employee union by executive order, a judge had temporarily halted the effort pending further review, albeit with plenty of expressions of deep skepticism over Dayton’s authority to proceed. Yesterday, Judge Dale Lindman made it official, ruling that Dayton exceeded his constitutional authority and violated the prerogative of the legislature, nullifying the upcoming unionization election:
Judge Dale Lindman declared Dayton’s order, issued Nov. 15, “null and void because it is an unconstitutional usurpation of the Legislature’s constitutional right to create and or amend laws and as such is a violation of the Separation of Powers doctrine.”
The decision was a victory for anti-union child-care providers and conservative groups who opposed an attempt to unionize in-home child-care providers. It was a defeat for Dayton, who argued that the providers had a right to decide through an election whether they wanted to be represented by a union.
Lindman’s order ruled that the elections ordered by Dayton cannot occur.
“The proper method to proceed is for the matter to be brought to the Legislature,” Lindman’s order reads. He argued that Dayton’s order is an attempt “to circumvent the Legislative process and unionize child care providers by executive order, rather than by adhering to a valid Legislative process.”
Dayton attempted to bypass the state legislature in this effort by declaring through executive order that day-care centers that indirectly receive state aid through their clients are in effect public-sector workplaces — a definition not found in law or in legislative intent. In fact, as Gary Gross points out, it arguably contravenes state law. That way, Dayton could order an election that would allow his union allies to force their way into day-care workplaces, including many independent operations, and start extracting dues on a massive basis. To no one’s great surprise, day-care operators and workers found this rather offensive and sued in Ramsey County (the seat of the state capital) to bring an end to Dayton’s extreme union-expansion project.
I use the word extreme for a couple of reasons. First, it fits; had Dayton succeeded in his imposition of public-worker status, the precedent established would have been so broad as to threaten the very notion of a private-sector workforce altogether. Where would the limits have been? Fast-food restaurants that take food-stamp debit cards? Medical care facilities that accept Medicaid patients? Just as in ObamaCare at the federal level, it would be difficult if not impossible to find a limitation of power in that kind of precedent.
Second, it was Mark Dayton who used the word extreme to describe the right-to-work referendum currently stalled in the Minnesota legislature. Dayton and his union allies, who very nearly got a big payday from Dayton’s abuse of power, consider it extreme to allow people the choice of whether to join a union while remaining employed, but not extreme to force independent babysitters into unions simply because some of their clients are on state assistance. A poll taken at the time shows the right-to-work referendum to be so extreme that it’s supported by Minnesota voters by more than a 2-1 margin (55/24), and has majority or plurality support among all demographics — even Democrats and self-described liberals.
And yet, the state GOP seems intent on hiding from this issue by bottling up the bill that would put the referendum on the ballot in November. Why? According to a couple of sources, Republicans fear that having this referendum on the ballot will draw millions of dollars of union money into the state and make it difficult to keep control of the legislature. However, unions are a little overextended already. They’re fighting a losing battle next door to recall Governor Scott Walker, another in Arizona and Indiana over PEU and right-to-work reforms in those states, plus the spending they have to do to shore up Barack Obama’s re-election bid. This is actually the best time for the legislature to put this question before the voters of Minnesota, and to finish the lesson on extremism begun by Judge Lindman yesterday.
Note: I’m still on vacation and will return full time on Monday, but I’m dipping my toes in the water this weekend.
Update: In describing the poll on the right-to-work referendum, I neglected to add the important qualifier “among all demographics.” The omission made it appear that a majority of either Democrats or liberals support such legislation. In both cases, support gets a plurality. I’ve fixed it above.