UPDATE: Hudson-based child care firm under scrutiny in multiple states

Workers at a River Falls child care center walked off the job Monday, alleging problems getting paid for their work.

A group of Little Minds Learning Center employees rallied March 25 outside the building, where they shared heartbreak over forcing families to seek child care elsewhere, but said the lingering issue had reached a breaking point.

"We want to be there for them," Little Minds Learning Center Director Josie Groth said of the families who bring children there. "But unfortunately we're not being paid."

According to Wisconsin court filings, eviction paperwork was filed March 14 against Little Minds Learning Center - River Falls, LLC and owner Todd Barnhardt by WI Development, LLC. An eviction hearing is scheduled for April 2 in St. Croix County Circuit Court.

Barnhardt, along with Little Minds accounting and human resources departments, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Spring Valley residents Ashley Studert and Jesse Johnson stopped by the center Monday to wish the workers well. They ended their child's enrollment at the center after learning of the impending walk-off a day earlier.

"We have to find care because we have busy lives, too," Johnson said.

Studert said the decision wasn't a reflection on the workers who have cared for their child.

"They're great employees," she said.

Groth said the issue first arose in fall 2018 and has since resulted in significant staff turnover.

She said just four of the 30 workers could access funds from their most recent paycheck last week, which prompted the decision to walk off.

"Most people here live paycheck to paycheck," Groth said. "People are mad."

Whitney Yates, a Chippewa Valley Technical College student living in River Falls, began working at Little Minds in February. She said she immediately "fell in love" with the families who brought children there and her coworkers.

The paycheck problems, she said, have been the lone problem.

"It's been really hard to live, especially when your paychecks are bouncing or they're not cashable," Yates said. "This is really hard. This is a great center. We're just trying to fight for our center here."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.