Brooklyn Park lawmaker introduces bill to require vote by providers
By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
It doesn’t guarantee there will be a child care providers’ union, said Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, but his bill guarantees a vote on the issue. “I believe in bargaining rights,” said Nelson, a union carpenter and business manager.
Nelson and Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, presented legislation Feb. 25 they hope advances a unionization vote among some child care providers. Gov. Mark Dayton last session attempted by executive order to call a vote only to see the order thrown out by a judge.
The legislation would have some 9,000 licensed and unlicensed family child care providers that receive state Child Care Assistance Program subsidies voting on the question of unionization.
Lisa Thompson, a St. Paul child care provider and president of Child Care Providers Together Local 3400 — a group associated with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees — conceded the initiative is controversial because it’s different from what some people think of unions.
Thompson and other advocates portrayed unionization as a means of reaching isolated businesses, improving training, offering collective bargaining for higher subsidies and more sensible regulations.
Under the bill, unionization would occur if more than half of the child care providers sign union authorization cards, or take other affirmative steps. If this fails to occur, an election could take place if more than 30 percent of the providers indicate a willingness to join a union.
“We have a common goal,” Jennifer Munt, public affairs director for AFSCME Council 5, said of the providers.
And there will never be a child care providers’ strike, advocates insist. The legislation specifically states child care providers do not have the right to strike.
Becky Swanson, a Lakeville child care provider, and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, were sharply critical of the legislation.
“I have a voice,” said Swanson, one of the plaintiffs in the successful suit last year against Dayton’s executive order.
She wasn’t sure what she would do if the legislation became law, she said. Swanson currently does not have any children enrolled at her child care whose payments are subsidized by the state, she said, but that doesn’t means she’d never want any in the future.
Government money, channeled through the assistance program toward the union in terms of union fees, constitutes a form of “money laundering,” Franson argued.
For Nelson, it’s a question of fairness. “It’s doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be a union,” he said of his bill. “But it guarantees they (providers) are going to have a vote, like everybody else does,” he said of teachers are others represented by unions.
“I believe it’s got a good chance (of passing) in the House,” Nelson said.
ECM Capitol reporter Tim Budig is at email@example.com.
Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, presented his child care provider unionization bill Feb. 25 at the State Capitol. (Photo by T.W. Budig)