Guest CommentaryAs a lifelong Democrat and union supporter, I was excited eight years ago as I drove to Duluth for my first union meeting. I thought “A child care union, how cool!” Today I question the integrity of my Democratic Party. I was taught that Republicans were only interested in corporate greed and didn’t care about those of us in the middle class, yet that is what I am and what I’m hearing from my DFL — only in this case substitute the word “union” for “corporation.”
By: Healther Falk, Pine Journal
As a lifelong Democrat and union supporter, I was excited eight years ago as I drove to Duluth for my first union meeting. I thought “A child care union, how cool!”
Today I question the integrity of my Democratic Party. I was taught that Republicans were only interested in corporate greed and didn’t care about those of us in the middle class, yet that is what I am and what I’m hearing from my DFL — only in this case substitute the word “union” for “corporation.”
I am not ready to abandon my party yet. Instead I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. I think they, too, are as I was eight years ago — naïve.
This so called “child care union” is not your typical union. Unions are supposed to stand for workers’ rights, safety in the work place and a “living wage”; a union is a unit of workers who are collectively represented in work-place negotiations, and its members are protected by labor law.
There are no workers/employees in this union — we are all business owners. We set our own hours, pay and vacations. Our work environment is our homes.
Here in Carlton County there are 75 of us, and nearly all of us do not wish to join a union.
This child care union will not benefit us: we will not have the right to strike and we will not be protected by labor law. This union hurts us, it hurts families and it hurts good unions.
The child care union knows it cannot win an election, so it has turned to the DFL-controlled state to ask for a law change.
A recent study revealed that while more than 40 percent of the providers in Minnesota belong to professional child care associations, only 3 percent identify themselves as union members. Our state association, the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA), recently conducted a survey with similar results.
There is NOT support for this among the licensed family child care profession. This is why unlicensed care givers have been included in this bill. The union cannot win without them.
Ensuring a union victory is not a good enough reason to combine a group of professional businesses with those who do not have the same rules, regulations, requirements and concerns.
Here’s a parallel example: Teachers and paraprofessionals both work in the same schools for the same employer. Their paychecks come from the same place. Both work with children and both play a part in ensuring our children have the finest education. However teachers must maintain a teaching license. They must continue their education and they have different requirements. It would make no sense for them to bargain together with paraprofessionals and they don’t.
This bill creates an inappropriate labor unit of professional, licensed providers and unlicensed care givers.
This bill also goes against traditional Public Employees Labor Relations Act – State Labor Law standards requiring a union show 30 percent support prior to an election being ordered. It drops the threshold down to 10 percent! Labor laws were not only designed to protect unions, they were also put in place to protect employees. This bill takes away protection for those being organized.
This bill will significantly limit options for families using the child care assistance program (CCAP). It will raise the cost of child care for private pay families and — since providers are ineligible for grants if they refuse to accept CCAP families — it will limit a large portion of grant money to those willing to pay union dues and fees.
Even though child care providers are speaking out against this bill, the DFL is still pushing it through.
I have sent several emails and made numerous phone calls to our legislators from Carlton County and they haven’t had the courtesy to respond. Last weekend, there was a meeting where all child care providers and all of the legislature was invited — only Republicans attended. At committee hearing where this bill has been heard, testimony of providers who are opposed are turned away, testifiers limited to two with only two minutes each.
This union is nothing more than a bully, preying on woman business owners and using the good name of “union.”
I am so saddened that because an entity calls itself a union, my DFL representatives disregard their constituents and blindly support this dangerous precedent that could ultimately hurt child care providers, families and children as well as tax payers and legitimate unions.
Heather Falk is a licensed in-home child care provider in Cloquet and the vice president of Carlton County’s chapter of the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA