Battle continues over unionizing child careThe email lines lit up when providers in Carlton County read a story stating Gov. Mark Dayton may sign an executive order authorizing a vote on a union for in-home child care providers. In just one day, they had drafted a letter to the governor and had 124 signatures on the letter, requesting a face-to-face meeting with Dayton.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The email lines lit up when providers in Carlton County read a story stating Gov. Mark Dayton may sign an executive order authorizing a vote on a union for in-home child care providers. In just one day, they had drafted a letter to the governor and had 124 signatures on the letter, requesting a face-to-face meeting with Dayton.
“A provider posted on [a union] website that she went to a baseball game with Gov. Dayton and had an opportunity to talk about unionizing providers in Minnesota,” said Heather Falk, a Cloquet in-home childcare provider and the vice president of Carlton County’s chapter of the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA). “But we can’t get a face-to-face meeting with him, even though we’ve been asking since the end of the legislative session. Do we have to pay for a box at a football game to meet with him?”
Falk is frustrated, as are many of Carlton County’s nearly 70 in-home providers, who don’t support the effort to unionize Minnesota’s nearly 11,000 providers. It’s been a six-year battle, one that ebbed under Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty but is resurging now that a DFL governor is in office.
Carlton County licensed home childcare providers first heard about efforts to unionize their businesses in 2005, when two different unions– American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – conducted separate door knocking campaigns in the county. In the end, the two unions agreed to split the state between north and south, with AFSCME’s “Child Care Providers Together” (CCPT) aiming to represent the northern half of the state (including Hennepin County).
Providers who support the unionization effort say a union will give providers more respect, a voice in licensing and subsidy debates and could offer other benefits such as group healthcare.
However, because such a union doesn’t actually exist yet, no one can say with any certainty what the union would offer its members or even how much dues would be. While no one could be forced to join, because of Minnesota’s Fair Share law, licensed in-home childcare providers would likely have to pay, whether they chose to join the union or not.
Opponents say a union of private business owners whose employee-employer relationship is with individual parents wouldn’t be legal. They also say many of the benefits union supporters are promising are already available in the state, such as training for providers, a statewide organization – MLFCCA – and input on legislation and laws affecting in-home providers.
Since the providers opposed to unionization made their cause public, they have made progress, Falk said. Representatives met with members of Gov. Dayton’s staff Aug. 17 as part of his research of the issue. Both pro- and anti-union providers also addressed a joint hearing of the Minnesota House of Representatives Innovation and Health and Human Services committees Sept. 22.
Dayton called the hearings “political ploy.”
“The day we had the hearing, the governor called it ‘grandstanding’ and said the issue could wait for the next legislative session to be in order,” Falk said. “But then he tells MPR that he could sign something in the next two weeks?”
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that union organizers were visiting providers in the Iron Range over the weekend, asking them to sign a form stating they would “vote yes for Child Care Providers Together Union.”
“Why is the union sending people door-to-door unless they have some assurance from the state?” Falk said.
An email query asking whether the governor was planning to take action soon on the issued garnered this response from his press secretary on Monday: “The governor has previously said he would not issue an executive order creating a union, but he is considering taking action related to the unionization of child care workers. No action expected from our office this week– nothing imminent. The governor is still consulting with staff and legal counsel to determine what the scope of his action might be.”
The letter from providers opposed to the unionization effort went to Gov. Dayton’s office Tuesday.
So far, no one knows if he will consent to a meeting.
“This isn’t a party issue; it’s not even an anti-union issue,” Falk said. “It’s an issue of right or wrong, and it’s wrong for us.”