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Pro-Union Day Care Providers Speak Out

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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) — Child care union organizers on Thursday launched a tough offensive against state Republican lawmakers.

The union organizers accused lawmakers of a deliberate campaign to kill a unionization vote.

It became, unexpectedly, one of the most politically over-heated issues of the year. Child care union organizers said it’s become a fight over union organizing, not just child care.

Clarissa Johnston has never seen so much attention to child care issues. It’s all because she wants to form a union. But not all the attention has been good, said Johnston.

“These politicians deserve a time out,” she said.

At a child care legislative hearing last month, she said Republican lawmakers “bullied” her and other providers. A recent letter from a Republican lawmaker to in-home providers contained false information.

“Republican legislators are spreading lies to scare and bully us into not voting for a union and i’m here to tell them it’s not going to work,” Johnston said.

The letter, from State Representative Torey Westrom, accurately points out that fewer than half of in-home providers, the ones who get subsidies, can vote.

But it falsely claims all providers “will be forced” to pay union dues. Westrom said he still believes that’s true, but he’s correcting the letter to say providers “may be forced” to join in the future.

“That is just the governor’s executive order. There is other analysis that has gone on and needs to come into play like federal law and other state laws that may contradict the governor,” Westrom said.

A judge recently put the union vote on hold, and providers like Robert Ellis said Minnesota lawmakers are fighting it as if they are more anti-union than are pro-child care.

“I think in the same sense that Republicans are choosing to stand in the way of the American people’s voitng rights, they also want to stand in the way of the American people’s rights to organize through unions,” Ellis said.

If Gov. Dayton had his way, a child care union election would be going on right now. But a Ramsey County judge stopped the election, and said it more properly was a legislative matter. In any case, it’s definitely not going away.

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16.

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