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DL woman fights daycare union

Terrie Boyd just returned from the Minnesota State Capitol where she protested the idea of unionizing at-home daycare providers. DON DAVIS/FORUM COMMUNICATIONS CO.

Detroit Lakes daycare provider Terrie Boyd is making herself very loud and clear at the State Capitol and beyond as she fights against unionizing at-home daycares. 

Boyd was one of several protesting the idea there earlier this week as the legislature approved it by a very narrow vote.

Governor Dayton is expected to sign off on the measure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the unionization will happen — it simply means at-home daycares and personal care attendants will have the option to vote on it. 

The 12,500 at-home daycare providers in Minnesota who work with families that receive assistance from the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, or C-PAP, are allowed to vote, and if at least 50 percent are for it, a union will be formed. 

“But the problem with that is, it would create a union where only a small portion of providers would be making decisions on regulatory changes that effect every provider, and that’s just wrong,” said Boyd, who has been working with families in the C-PAP for years.

Democrats back two unions that want to sign up child care workers and personal care attendants.

Union leaders say they can do a better job of negotiating state subsidies and rules that govern the services.

Another child care provider, Lynn Barten of Alexandria and proponent of the bill, says associations that represent child care workers have not been effective at the Legislature. 

Unions are better capable of lobbying lawmakers for more money and better regulations, she said.

Opponents like Boyd say it’s unnecessary and will only cost the providers in terms of monthly union dues. 

“I don’t need the state government helping me set my rates, and I don’t need the unions dipping their hands into my pockets,” she said, “I’m not against unions — it makes sense in a lot of areas, it just doesn’t make sense here.”

It’s expected that if unionized, providers who want in would likely be paying at least $25 a month in union dues, but the amount has yet to be set.

Although Boyd and other home daycare workers can choose not to be a part of the union, they would still not be free and clear.

Under the law, if she wanted to continue taking in children whose parents get state childcare assistance, she would be forced to pay what is called a “fair share” fee, which can be as much as 85 percent of the dues.

“So, what? Even if the unions get me a $5 raise (from the state C-PAP) but I have to pay $35 to the union, do you think I won’t be forced to pass that loss on to my families?” said Boyd, “I haven’t raised my rates in five years; I can’t afford to just give them money, and neither can some of my families.”

In fact, if push comes to shove, Boyd says she will decide to stop taking families who receive assistance, a decision she says would be a heartbreaking one for her. 

“It hurts because this is my livelihood and my passion,” said Boyd, “working with people who are in jeopardy, people in special needs, families in poverty, and they may force me out of this because I refuse to be unionized.”

But for Boyd, this issue isn’t just about the heart, the financial stakes or the principle … she believes it’s straight up unconstitutional.  She stood at the state Capitol holding a sign that read, “What part of unconstitutional didn’t you understand?” and she says it’s for this reason that she is not giving up.

“There’s more than one way to skin this cat,” she said, referring to a possible lawsuit against the state, “federal labor law precludes you from being able to organize small business owners, and we are owners not employees.”

In the meantime, Boyd and fellow union opponents are calling on more licensed providers to register for C-PAP funds so that they can vote.  “Let’s make it a real democracy, not just a vote of a small portion and either vote this thing out or stop it cold by using the legal system.”

Once Gov. Dayton signs the bill, SEIU and AFSCME will have four years to convince daycare providers to vote for unionization.

Don Davis of the Forum News Service contributed to this story.