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Unionization Divides Day Care Community

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Mark Dayton has the power to make a single decision that would divide day care providers across the state.

There is a renewed effort underway to unionize the state’s 11,000 day care centers under the Democratic governor.

The same thing has happened in 13 states, including Iowa and Wisconsin, since 2005.

The idea has got Cyndi Cunningham pretty upset, as she has had to spend her whole summer fighting to make sure her St. Paul home stays non-union.

“I’ve put a lot of work into this,” she said. “We’re small business owners first. Unions are for workers and employees.”

She said she has heard from hundreds of other day care owners who feel the same way. Cunningham believes the biggest problem lies in the process, in which Dayton has the power to sign an executive order at any time to unionize child care centers.

“I think we should be able to have a vote,” Cunningham said. “I’m a self-employed business owner, not an employee of the government.”

A day care owner herself for more than 20 years, Clarissa Johnston sees a partnership with AFSCME’s Child Care Providers Together as a way to have more power in what can be an isolating career.

She said that in a union day care workers would have better access to training, more of a say on regulations and substitute help in case of an emergency.

“I just see it as a model of advancing our profession,” Johnston said. “They offer me alternatives that weren’t available before.”

Katharine Tinucci, an AFSCME spokesperson, said the governor has yet to make a decision. She said Dayton is still gathering information from both sides.

“There’s no hard timeline when a decision will be made,” she said.

It’s a choice that’s bound to be difficult, in the midst of such strong feelings and in the wake of the government shutdown.

There is also a cost concern. Some day care owners believe parents would have to make up for the cost of union dues, but AFSCME said dues still have to be decided on.

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