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Minn. Legislature Examines Child-Care Union Push

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) will send out child care union ballots on Dec. 7, but critics say there are too many questions, and too little time, to hold the election before the holidays.

That’s why child care providers traveled to the State Capitol Monday, skeptical of a union and filled with questions about how much they will be affected.

“My personal plea is stop it,” said Cyndi Cunningham, a St. Paul Day Care provider, who shut down her business to attend a Minnesota House hearing. “If it’s a lawsuit, personally, go for it.”

BMS has certified 4,287 in-home, private day care providers eligible to vote in the election– the businesses that receive state subsidies.

However, BMS director John Tilsen admits it is unclear whether the remaining child care operators in the state — an estimated 6,713 — may be affected as well.

“This is a very unusual circumstance; I dare say, unique,” Tilsen told lawmakers. “And the answer is: I don’t know.”

Republican lawmakers question whether Gov. Mark Dayton has the legal authority to order a union election, and say the election should be postponed or canceled until the questions are answered.

“So, we’re going to be going into an election where probably the biggest question there is — we don’t know what the answer is.” asked Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston. “Well, that’s troubling to me.”

If unions win the vote, opponents say they’d be required to follow whatever regulations the union negotiates with the state.

“I want someone to help figure out how to stop, and give us back our rights that we have to be able to be self-employed people, and not be under the control of the union people,” said Cunningham.

House Republican leaders also question whether there is enough time to mail thousands of ballots, allow providers to vote, retrun the ballots and tabulate the results before the Dec. 22 deadline.

“We’re not against unionization. We’re not against people collectively bargaining,” said Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, the chairman of the House Commerce Committee that held the hearing. “This just seems to be a little bit out to left field.”

The two unions who are pushing for unionization, AFSCME and SEIU, were invited, but did not attend the hearing.

In a statement, AFSCME said it is busy “preparing to win the union election.”

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