Anti-Union Workers Can’t Sue as Class

     (CN) – Nonunionized child care providers in Michigan cannot form a class with union members to sue the state for deducting union dues from state-funded subsidies, the 6th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
     Michigan child care providers who do not want to join a union object to having a portion of their state subsidies deducted for union fees.
     Child Care Providers Together Michigan (CCPTM) was elected to serve as the union for the state’s child care providers. Of 6,396 ballots cast, 5,921 were in favor of the union.
     Under a 2008 collective bargaining agreement, all home child care providers receiving subsidies from the state were required to either become a union member or have a portion of their subsidy deducted to cover union costs.
     Carrie Schlaud and five others objected on First Amendment grounds. They are represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
     A federal judge denied class certification, and the 6th Circuit affirmed that ruling in 2013.
     But the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the judgment, and ordered the Cincinnati-based appeals court to revisit the issue in light of the high court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn .
     In Harris, the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois cannot force providers of Medicaid-subsidized rehabilitation services to pay costs for a union they chose not to join, because they were not full-fledged state employees.
     “The court did not, however, touch upon the issue of class certification,” in Harris, the 6th Circuit noted on remand.
     In an unsigned opinion Tuesday, the 6th Circuit ruled that Harris did not affect its initial decision, and again denied the child care providers class certification.
     “Were the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims before us, we think that Harris would have much to say. But the merits of their claims are not in front of us,” the 12-page opinion states.
     The plaintiffs’ claims against the state became moot once Gov. Rick Snyder ended the program of collective bargaining at issue. And the union wrote checks to the named plaintiffs of approximately $100 each rather than pay to continue the litigation.
     The proposed class of 40,000 childcare workers would allow each class member to recover money from the union. But the class definition is problematic, the 6th Circuit said, because it includes any home child care provider who had union dues or fees deducted from a state subsidy payment – whether or not they voted to join the union voluntarily.
     The last time the court heard this case, “We observed that the named plaintiffs, who objected to the payment of fees under the collective bargaining agreement, had ‘divergent interests’ from class members who voted in favor of the collective bargaining agreement. We concluded, therefore, that ‘[t]he district court did not abuse its discretion in denying certification of plaintiffs’ proposed class because plaintiffs fail to meet the prerequisite of adequacy of representation,'” the three-judge panel said.
     Nothing in the Supreme Court’s Harris decision alters this reasoning, the court concluded.
     “The court was absolutely correct,” defense attorney John West, with Bredhoff & Haiser in Washington, D.C., told Courthouse News.
     “The only thing at issue in this case was not the merits, but whether a class should be certified. Harris had nothing whatever to do with that. It was a mystery to us all along why the Supreme Court remanded this case.”
     The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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