On Friday, May 24, Minnesota Governor Dayton signed SF 778, The Child Care Collective Bargaining Act, into law. The law, effective July 1, 2013, authorizes unionization and collective bargaining rights for some private home healthcare workers – including child care and personal care attendants – and treats them as covered under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA). Previously, these workers were not considered covered by PELRA and were not allowed to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. In general, the law will permit unions to organize and bargain on behalf of home healthcare providers whose clients receive state subsidies from the Child Care Assistance Program.

A Minnesota state court judge ruled last year that legislative authorization is required before state employees can petition for union representation, rejecting Governor Dayton’s effort to pass a similar measure via executive order. The bill requires a showing of interest of at least 30% of prospective members wishing to join a union before a vote can be held; union representation requires a majority vote. The bill does not, however, give the state’s home healthcare workers the ability to strike.

Under the legislation, the state would be obligated to negotiate with a properly elected labor representative of covered workers over certain terms and conditions of employment. This new law could affect up to 15,000 personal care attendants and 11,000 child care workers who work for the state.

The bill narrowly passed the state senate, with a vote of 35-32, and the state house of representatives, with a vote of 68-66. This new law is significant in its expansion of the universe of Minnesota state employees allowed to unionize, particularly given the inclusion of child and personal care attendants – both positions required to uniquely accommodate the needs of families they serve. Several organizations have already filed suit to enjoin enforcement of the law on the grounds that federal labor law preempts the new state law, insofar as it does not allow such individuals to unionize.