Judge dismisses child-care workers union lawsuit

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at recovering millions of dollars in union dues paid by Michigan child-care providers who work at home.

The lawsuit claimed union representation was forced on self-employed people who weren't state employees and got no benefit from paying dues. But U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids said there simply were too many conflicts to make it a class-action case.

He said there may be child-care providers who had no problem paying dues.

"Determining whether a refund is inappropriate would require the court to conduct an individualized inquiry into the motivation of each and every class member's union membership to determine whether that member voluntarily submitted to the deduction in the first place," Jonker said in a Dec. 22 order.

Disputes over laws governing unions, he said, should be in the Capitol, rather than the courts.

"We're disappointed with the judge's decision and foundation staff attorneys are planning to appeal," said Patrick Semmens, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which filed the lawsuit.

The case centered on the representation of 40,000 home-based workers. The union was created in 2006, although only 15 percent of providers cast ballots. During the administration of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, state officials deducted dues from public subsidies paid to people who watched low-income kids.

The union, a partnership between the United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said it offered important training and settled problems between child-care providers and the Department of Human Services. Dues totaled nearly $4 million, according to the lawsuit.

The department stopped deducting dues last year after the election of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, saying the workers were not state employees.

Unions are mandatory representatives of personal-care workers in more than a dozen states, according to National Right to Work.

Published: Mon, Jan 9, 2012