By ALEXANDRA TEMPUS
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Ramsey County judge who earlier blocked a vote on whether thousands of Minnesota child-care workers could unionize will decide within 90 days whether to make his order permanent.
Gov. Mark Dayton called for the vote late last year by executive order, handing a potential victory to public employee unions who had long argued that child-care workers should have the right to organize and bargain collectively. But Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order in December, saying the issue should have gone through the Legislature.
On Wednesday, Dayton's administration and child-care workers who opposed the vote each renewed their arguments.
Tom Revnew, an attorney for the child-care providers, said Dayton had exceeded his authority by stepping into an issue that should have gone through the Legislature.
Solicitor General Alan Gilbert argued that Dayton acted appropriately because the vote was essentially a "survey" of licensed child-care providers to see if they would be interested in forming a union. From there, Gilbert said, discussion could take place that could lead to legislation.
"(The governor is) clearly authorized to direct his appointees to deal with a public issue," Gilbert said of the order.
Lindman was skeptical.
"Clearly that would be allowed. When you turn it into an election, that's a different matter," Lindman said.
The union vote would affect about 11,000 in-home child-care providers, but only about 4,300 who receive state money to care for children from poor families would have been eligible to vote. Some providers who wouldn't have been able to vote had protested they could still be subject to union agreements that might affect issues such as training requirements and facilities.
Hollee Saville, a plaintiff who cares for eight children in her St. Michael home and who attended the Wednesday hearing, said it would be "an illegal and unfair vote."
Gregg Corwin, a lawyer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who argued to let the vote proceed, told Lindman he was ignoring cases that allowed similar executive orders from governors in several other states, including Maryland, Kansas, Iowa and others.
"(It is) not the governor that is abusing the separation of powers, it is the court that is legislating," Corwin said.
"It certainly is not my intent to usurp the governor's power," Lindman said. He said he could not consider cases from other states.
A permanent ruling against the union vote would likely be the end of the issue for the near future. Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, and organizers have said it would be hard to successfully make their case there. (Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)