Unionization of RI Childcare Providers May Be Unconstitutional
An attorney from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided the following analysis for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity regarding the current effort in the Ocean State to unionize over 550 childcare providers, many of whom are moms running their own independent small businesses.
Recently, Rhode Island passed a law requiring childcare providers caring for children from low-income families to accept monopoly union representation. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has petitioned for an election to become the monopoly union representative. If the SEIU wins the election, it will negotiate with the state over reimbursement rates for child care providers and other conditions of their businesses and have the right to confiscate dues from childcare subsidy payments.
Rhode Island is violating providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them into an unwanted relationship with the SEIU. The First Amendment protects the right of freedom of speech and to petition government. The government does not have the power to force citizens to accept handpicked lobbyists for small businesses.
Childcare providers are small, independent business owners. They set their own working conditions and hours and hire their own employees. Caring for children on state assistance does not transform them into public employees, nor does it create an employment relationship with the state government.
Forcing providers into a union is no different than if Rhode Island tried to force all small businesses to accept the Chamber of Commerce as their mandatory lobbyist. Providers have the right to lobby the state government though voluntary associations, rather than through the state’s handpicked monopoly union.
Similar schemes in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota have been challenged as unconstitutional. Michigan eventually ended its scheme after a lawsuit was filed, while the Illinois case is pending review at the United States Supreme Court.
Aaron Solem, is a staff attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, Virginia.
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