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Opinion: Union law offers no benefits

This spring the Minnesota Legislature passed — and Gov. Mark Dayton signed — a bill allowing day care and home care providers to form their own union.

Although some Minnesotans were excited, many were dismayed. A poll by the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association found 86 percent of its licensed providers opposed the move. I agree with that 86 percent.

The idea of allowing unionization is linked to providers who care for children whose families receive public support through state payments made on their behalf to child care facility owners.

Basically, if a provider wants to care for those children, they have to join the union or pay a high price. If they choose not to be in the union but still care for these children they must pay “fair share” dues. The only way to avoid dues and the union, should it form, is to stop caring for all children of families receiving the aid.


This unionizing puts government between day care owner and parent even more than it already is. Not only does it dictate clients for providers, but anything a union negotiates with the state will be subject to legislative approval, which effectively nullifies independence.

About 30 percent of providers who receive these payments are required under this new law to request a vote for representation by a union. If a majority of providers vote in favor, that union will represent all providers who accept these payments.

How can you unionize business owners? Many child care providers are independent business owners. They have a direct relationship with the parent; the parent has a relationship with the state for the payment.

But unions are meant to represent workers versus an employer. How is the state the employer of these providers? Or will grocery store workers who also receive food stamps be next to unionize?

If folks want to join a union, fine. The problem with Minnesota’s approach is it forces others to be part of a union or lose customers. And it inserts a union official between the parent, the child and the provider.

The provider has an inelectable choice: join a union against her will or turn away parents and children. Those costs either come from the provider’s pocket or are passed on to the parent. None of this is to the child’s benefit.

Small business

This argument about unionizing providers started in earnest in 2011 when Dayton tried to provide for a vote by executive order. In 2012, the courts decided he did not have this power. The judge even wrote in striking down the executive order, “no employer-employee relationship exists between childcare providers and the State.”

The Legislature now changed that definition inappropriately.

The DFL majority went so far as to extend the reach of the unions to personal care assistants who provide help in-home to recipients of Medical Assistance. Often these assistants have a family relationship with the person receiving services. Why would a union be allowed to get between the care a mother gives a disabled daughter or vice versa?

Small businesses are the foundation of the economy. As independent business-owners, child and home care providers write contracts, sets rates, hours, etc. This just doesn’t “fit” with traditional unions.

Throughout history there’s been a place for unions. But no one can define real benefits to this unionization. Providers are not disenfranchised, and there will only be higher costs for all, except unions, which will make millions from child subsidies and families paying more.

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of business operations here. Until someone can explain what is not working in the child care system and how a union could help fix it, we should respect the private enterprise of our child care providers. — St. Cloud Times