Pro-Union Day Care Providers Speak Out

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.

More from Pat Kessler
  • The Infidel

    “At issue is a vote to unionize the state’s 11,000 child care providers.”

    If this is indeed the issue, then let ALL 11,000 providers vote on it. Not just the DFL hand pick few.

    • Carrie Ag

      I usually vote DFL/Democratic and I am not anti-union.

      But YES! Let’s let ALL 11,000 PROVIDERS VOTE ON IT !!

  • who's the idiot

    What an idiotic uninformed comment. You don’t like unions so you denigrate an entire group of people, many of whom want nothing to do with a union that would charge them dues, interfere with their operations, and would provide no service not already offered by their own day care association. Enjoy your ignorance, idiot.

    • wildfire

      I have belonged to a union for the last 17 years, haven’t got a raise in the last 8 years and the healthcare benefits continue to decline. Yet, I still pay $15 a week for the honor of belonging. The union reps still get raises and excellent benefits though they have recently done nothing for mine and if they recommend we strike, we do not get paid. They continue to get their paychecks while not being able to do what we pay them for which is to negotiate a decent contract so we do not have to strike and lose salary we will never earn back. I could drop the union, but I would still have to pay fair share which is only saves me a single dollar. I would not work for a unionized organization again should I ever change jobs. Don’t rush to unionize.

      • Mark

        @ wildfire

        Gee you get to post the exact same comment twice? Aren’t you special.

        I also am a member of a trade union. I have belonged to five different unions in my lifetime of working. Was I always happy with my situation in the union? no I was not. So if you’re not happy, it is up to you to do something about it. Call your union and start to work to make it better. Will you get paid? Probably not, but soemtimes you might. But in the end you will at the least get your feelings heard, and at the most, you might get change that will have a positive affect on all.

        Is it your unions fault you didn;t get a raise? Absolutely not,! For that you need to take a look at your selfish employer. It is still the employer who decides what you get in wages and benefits, and up to you as a union member to decide whether or not it is good enough for you to accept.

        I stand with all union members in Solidarity!

        America works best when we say, UNION YES!!!!

        • AL

          I totally agree with you Mark. I was in the Mechanics contract at Northwest Airlines. As soon as we went on strike my job was outsourced to a company that was paying their employees 8 dollars an hour. I was getting about 18 with full benefits but do I blame the union even though many of our union leaders crossed the picket line? No. I went off and got another union job, I have found that the best paying jobs with the best benefits are union jobs.

          Union members stand as one!!!!

        • big duh mark

          @Mark, you must be a union stooge. Big head no brains.

  • Free World

    Bullied??? It is wrong to unionize daycare. Not everyone agrees with you. You can’t force these people to join your union. You shouldn’t be able to do that.

    • wildfire

      I have belonged to a union for the last 17 years, haven’t got a raise in the last 8 years and the healthcare benefits continue to decline. Yet, I still pay $15 a week for the honor of belonging. The union reps still get raises and excellent benefits though they have recently done nothing for mine and if they recommend we strike, we do not get paid. They continue to get their paychecks while not being able to do what we pay them for which is to negotiate a decent contract so we do not have to strike and lose salary we will never earn back. I could drop the union, but I would still have to pay fair share which is only saves me a single dollar. I would not work for a unionized organization again should I ever change jobs. Don’t rush to unionize

  • misty

    Just for the record I AM A DAYCARE PROVIDER in Minnesota…I have a state subsidized child in my care…HOWEVER because I did not have this child before November 1st 2011 I WOULDNT GET A VOTE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO tell me ALL you idiots who want a union HOW IS THIS FAIR? I Live in America a land of FREEDOM…I voted for DAYTON…I WONT AGAIN!

    • Tom

      @ Misty

      So you arre upset that you do not qualify because of the Nov 1 rule? And that is Dayton’s fault how?

      • Peace

        Are you seriously that dumb? She is blaming Dayton for trying to force a vote with only a small group of daycare providers. Oh wait, is that you Dayton??? I should have know.

  • Tom

    Just let them vote yes or no if they want to join a union. The GOP is making nothing into something. The GOP seems to want the people to vote on just about everything else but this. I guess that is their definition of FREEDOM!

    • Citizen

      Did you not read misty’s post? It appears that Daton and company want to limit who votes. Last time I checked, Daton wasn’t in the GOP.

      That being said I agree with you, let them vote. But let all of the daycare providers vote, not just a subset of the daycare providers.

      • misty

        AMEN TO THAT! 4300 people voting out of 11,000 providers is not AMERICAN

  • Al

    All should vote not just the people that get the gov money ALL.



    • Redneck Purist

      You’re making great intellectual strides recovering from your lobotomy. Nothing too difficult. Just push the keys on that thing in front of you. Pretty soon you’ll be making actual words then complete sentences. Before you know it you’ll be signing your own welfare checks and riding the bus all by yourself. Good for you!

      • The Angry Walrus

        Thanks for the laugh, Purist. :)

  • RIII

    Dayton is nothing more than a union stooge pushing their agenda. The unions are now pushing themselves mob style onto people that cannot move their companies out of the state. Unionizing the day care providers will only drive up the cost to taxpayers and only benefit the union mob bosses and not their idiots that pay into it.

    • RobertP

      100% right on the nailhead. thanks.

  • gail

    It is true that Dayton said if all the public government unions vote for him he will give them all daycare providers. Only reason they pick daycare providers is they cannot move their companies out of the state. Like schools and most other government jobs. Does anyone else see the rip off here?

  • Cyndi

    Organizing and unionization makes sense when there is an employer and working conditions to work with. We have neither. This “union” is just giving 2 non-profits the power of a union without any rules or laws. This is about respecting the laws that are currently on the books (labor laws) or working with law makers to make law that would make this all different. “Executive Order” is one elected person making a decision without full exploration. Giving us all the vote just puts us all under the same bullying process the unions have been using for years to push providers to sign cards, mis information regarding what this union can and can not do and there is no grievence process as there are no rules. I still can’t get them to answer questions. (The court date is Jan 17, not 16)

  • Carrie Ag

    As to feeling bullied —
    That provider has a union and union lawyers backing her. The individual providers who are not pro-childcare union have only themselves.
    Ask the providers who had union doorknockers at their homes (which are also their place of business) pressuring them for months on end to sign cards who is bullied.
    Not to mention that the union reps lied and said the cards were not to join a union, because no union existed.

  • Murph

    Unions have the guts to ask for a raise when a person alone has no chance of getting one! It’s the GOP edge,the fear factor.Without unions most us would be sleeping under newspapers in the street with what it costs to live these days.Letting the rich shove their brats where the sun don’t shine might be a better option I suppose!

    • Jack

      Maybe if you read the newspaper you wouldn’t have to sleep under it. Unions in this country are history.

      • Al

        yeah, and that’s why most of us have to work 2 jobs just to make ends meet!! It wasn’t that way in the unions heyday when people could make an honest livable wage. With unions you get medical, vacation, sick time, when you get fired for a wrongful reason, you get support both from the unions AND from lawyers supplied by the unions at no cost to you except for your union dues.
        Without unions you get 8 to 10 dollar an hour jobs, no medical, no sick time and if you’re fired wrongfully, it’s to bad. I’ve been a union member for 25 years. Both for good AND bad unions. There are alot more good unions out there than there are bad ones. I would check out the union and see what they have to offer you before you vote to unionize. If you don’t like what they say…vote no.

        • Kids Rock

          This is about FAMILY CHILDCARE PROVIDERS being forced to unionize, NOT about pro or anti-union rhetoric. We won’t get health insurance, pension, workman’s comp, and better pay with the unions. We are self-employed: we set OUR OWN hours, working conditions, vacations, etc. If we want to increase our wages, we can raise our rates (even $5/family makes a difference). In the other 13 (previously 15) states with childcare unions, the providers there have not seen the benefits promised to them, but they’ve certainly had dues and/or fair share fees taken from them.

          There are too many blanket statements being thrown around about all unions being bad or good. Can we PLEASE stick to the issue at hand? Thank you!

  • Kids Rock

    Does anyone else find it ironic that the only people these news stories mention as being FOR childcare unionization are PAID UNION EMPLOYEES?! Clarissa Johnston is paid by AFSCME, through Ramsey County taxpayer dollars! It is true that ALL providers could be forced to pay the unions: through voluntary union dues OR by fair share fees. Providers in the other states have been forced to pay fair share fees and it’s the same two unions as in 13 out of 15 of those states, so why should we think Minnesota will be any different?

    The people who have been working against childcare unionization are CHILDCARE PROVIDERS! Stop trying to paint this as a partisan fight. Politicians on both sides have made this into a partisan issue, but this is an issue of INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS! We are self-employed, small business owners. How and why should we unionie? If 11,299 out of 11,300 people want to unionize, the 1 provider against it shouldn’t be forced to unionize, The reciprocal is true, as well. What one or even a majority want should not infringe on the rights of everyone else to CHOOSE whether or not they want to join an organization because we are SELF-EMPLOYED! It’s that simple.

    The unions offer NO BENEFITS TO US as family childcare providers and they are making promises that they haven’t fulfilled in the other states and haven’t answered fundamental questions about costs, regulations, and benefits.

    • newcraft

      Where are people actually being “forced” here?

      I’ve read nothing where it says that people will absolutely have to join in order to be a licensed day care provider. Only that this is a vote for a union to exist – not for everyone to belong to it.

      Unions exist plenty of places where you can opt in and opt out – healthcare being one. And despite some people’s frustrations – there are still just as many cases todady of unions saving people’s jobs (particularly when people aren’t performing well or when interpersonal issues crop up – there’s at least a process in place whereas there isn’t that safety net elsewhere). No one’s getting benefits and pay raises – in any realm, union or non-union. That’s the current economy – not just a union thing.

      Maybe it’s a detail that’s been lost since initial reports – but why should one dissenter hold up the works if 99% of the others want it? the converse of your statement is also equally as unjust. Where has it been written, promised, or dictated that if there were a vote, every daycare provider would have to belong to it?

      • misty

        Maybe you need to talk with a few people working for companies that have unions…You can opt out however you still have to pay fair share dues! Im not paying anyone a dime of my hard earned money for a business I started on my own with my own money. KNOW YOUR FACTS before you try to tell us were not being “forced”

        • newcraft

          Oh how naive you are, Misty. My entire family belongs to unions. Two of us have no choice in the matter, we belong or we don’t get hired. The other has the option to opt out and does NOT pay fair share dues – that’s been nearly 21 years now and never asked to pay. YES – THEY DO OPERATE THAT WAY SOMETIMES.
          This is the time when things like opt-out pay can still be negotiated.
          Know your audience before you fly off the handle. You’re not the first person ever faced with the decision to join or not to join, and you’re certainly not going to get sympathy from others who had no choice in joining but are still living, breathing, and thriving (and probably pay less than you for things like healthcare because they’re union).

          • misty

            Do you own your own business? Were you ALLOWED a vote? Then shut the pie hole. Do you enjoy not having a choice?

            • newcraft

              Yes, I have my own business, Misty – I work two jobs. The idea that business owners are the ONLY people who work hard for their money and therefore somehow are to be put into a different category on things like this is ludicrous and insulting – we ALL work hard for our money, Misty,do you think people prefer to pay dues if they weren’t getting a benefit from doing so? Unions DO offer benefits in many cases.
              Once again – you’re not the only person ever facing this. But I can see I’m not talking to someone with any maturity based on your choice of words, so I wish you a wonderful evening of working off the chip on your own shoulder. Will take a while, from the looks of things.

              • misty

                May I ask why you are searching out the daycare union stories? How does the outcome of this vote affect you? Also you didnt answer my question…were you given a vote? Will someone you know personally be affected by this daycare union vote? I find it quite ironic that you have searched for this story(seeing how it was posted days ago) and are arguing something when the outcome has no affect on you. IF someone you know will be affected…WOULD THAT PERSON BE ALLOWED TO VOTE? Youre missing the comment here. Its about people being forced into unions without a VOICE. You do not know the facts about this. NO ONE DOES…We have asked numerous questions and been given NO answers. Makes me wonder if you yourself are being paid to find these stories and comment :) seeing how it is very suspicious that you searched for this story days after it was posted…Why would you take your precious time for that?

                • newcraft

                  Now you’re being paranoid Misty. You’re not the only person entitled to an opinion on unionizing. And it fits your past statements perfectly well that you’d accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being a schill.

                  Again – when you grow up and realize that you’re NOT the only person in the world who was ever faced with this issue, you’ll “get it.”

                  The outcome DOES have an effect on me, on others. That’s where your naivete shines through, in thinking this is only about you. What about your clients? What about people in other fields who DO want to unionize one day? They all have a stake in how the legislative end of this shakes out as well.

                  I’m simply pointing out your ignorance of how unions work – they’re not all the same, and they’re not all evil. Even people who weren’t given a choice to join still manage to earn a living and find benefit from being a part of it. I’ve said it before (and you’ve ignored it) – they pay pennies on the dollar for health insurance in many cases.

                  Lord help the kids you look after if you’re really this bad a judge of character. :)

  • Kevin

    Unions suck…..end of story…take a vote with all 11,0000 care takers…..this is all bs….

  • cyndisday

    iPlease stop the name calling and pro/anit union retoric. Get facts straight…this is not a union as anyone would define a union. Call it something else, union members should be concerned!! It is being formed outside of all labor laws (Governor Dayton is writting the rules remember). …check out the Nov 21 House hearing and listen to Josh Tilsen of BMS describe the undefined bargaining unit attempting to be formed. It’s all a loose cannon. NOT A UNION, just pushed by unions.

  • cyndisday

    The bullies right now are the Ramsey County Commissioners who are funding the union supporters. 5 providers (including Ms. Johnston) are funded by Ramsey County Tax payer dollars to the tune of $25,000/year while the rest of the 645 providers are starting to pay licensing fees. Revenue: Licensing fees; Expendeture: union. What outreach are these union providers offering while promoting the union? These providers have the opportunity to loose income if the unions are defeated.

  • The facts

    What is the difference between the 4000 and the 11,000? Are the 11,000 those that have at one time cared for subsidized children, but are not now? They should not vote if thats the situation, or maybe we all should vote, even though it does not affect me. Tell the truth!

  • Debbie Hagerty Reid

    My husband is in the graphic arts industry with his last job being union. As it slowly went under employees were getting laid off but not following seniority. He also saw many employees slacking on their jobs and in the normal working world would have been fired but not so with the union. Now he is with a non-union company with slightly better wages, better benefits, a company matched 401k plan and people who don’t take their job for granted. As a side note I have been a home daycare provider for the last 16 years and see absolutely no benefits to being unionized and would hope I would never be forced to join one.

  • Dan McGrath

    Here’s an example of that “bullying.”

  • Diane Siegler Fritz

    Having a union makes it harder for children to be protected by workers with scrupulous pasts. The unionized school districts allow bus drivers to drive if they have a DWI on their record. Why the heck should unions be allowed for workers that work with young child (many of these children can’t speak for themselves)?
    HELL NO! Why do they want a union? It makes me wonder what these people have to hide.

  • Mark

    @ big duh mark

    I am sorry for you sir/ma’am. I would much rather be a member of a union then to feel that I am only one voice against my employer.

    We are a collective group who struggle together. But, isn’t it true that the voice of many is more powerful then the voice of one? I would much rather be in the group of many.

    And the comment of being a stooge, I take it with a grain of salt. I would much rather be a union stooge than a Wal-mart associate. Besides I have a better wage and benefits, something those at wal-mart would love to have, if only they were in a union, if only…

    And how about Newt wanting to put our school children to work as Janitors in the schools. What about the Men and Women in those jobs who are trying to support families. I guess that’s the party of “family values” and caring about people for ya.

    • Kids Rock

      And therein lies the problem with this whole mess: we are SELF-EMPLOYED, INDEPENDENT SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS! Does the voice of any amount of us mean more than the voice of 1 family childcare provider? Answer: NO! The things each provider wants may be very different than what the union (or a group) of providers wants, but the union would be the EXCLUSIVE REPRESENTATIVE to DHS for “meet and confer.” Our licensing regulations affect EVERY SINGLE FAMILY CHILDCARE PROVIDER, so it would be unfair to allow a minority of all providers to decide for all of us.

      I do agree that I would rather work for any employer than Wal-Mart, but that has nothing to do with this issue. Neither do your comments about Newt, although I agree that it was a major gaffe for him to say that. I would never vote for him, but I knew that before he said that comment. However, Newt is not representative of conservatives (and certainly not of all Republicans), just as Obama isn’t representative of all Democrats. I care very much for other people, as evidenced by doing family childcare. :)

      • newcraft

        The other thing that’s being vehemently ignored here, is that your costs for health insurance and other things, as one independent self-employed person are much higher than if you were able to purchase that health insurance through a union/group pool.

        That’s one HUGE thing that’s apparently been forgotten in all the political mess. Some of the interest would appear to be to pool resources so they can better afford these things. But all the politics and anti-union sentiment is drowning out that small but IMPORTANT factoid. Don’t want to be a part of it? Fine, but why so vitriolic about others wanting to find more affordable ways to manage that cost?

        • Kids Rock

          Yes, Newcraft. It all SOUNDS great and awesome, that we’ll actually get health coverage from the unions, but that’s NOT what has happened in 12 of the 15 childcare union states. In the 3 that DO offer it to childcare providers, the coverage is ONLY for the provider (no spousal or dependent coverage), there are income-eligibility requirements, you have to have 4 children on subsidy in Washington (1 in Illinois), and you lose coverage if you don’t meet the requiements (like have a child on subsidy leave your program). In New York, the STATE covers the cost, which is just horrible for taxpayers to be paying for childcare providers’ coverage, In Illinois and Washington, the provider still has to pay a portion Other unions, like my husband’s, have benefits like health insurance, but AFSCME and SEIU HAVE NOT provided those benefits in their childcare unions (13 out of the 15 states).

          I never said I was anti-union…people who are pro-union are painting everyone against childcare unionization as being anti-union! I am NOT anti-union, as stated in a post above, just against childcare unionization. You are right that the political rhetoric is drowning out the FACTS: childcare unionization would HURT everyone EXCEPT the unions! If providers WANT to join the union, they can do that now! They don’t need Governor Dayton to step in with an illegal executive order that creates a law, something delegating ONLY to the legislative branch by our Constitution. The order ignores more than 7,000 providers who would be affected by any changes the union makes to licensing regulations, training requirements, etc. Providers take kids on subsidy throughout their careers, but all of them aren’t given a vote that is supposedly for people who take kids on subsidy. It is FORCED UNIONIZATION OF ALL PROVIDERS WHO HAVE KIDS ON CCAP, as Governor Dayton’s order EXPLICITLY states they will be unionized. They WILL be able to choose whether or not to pay UNION DUES, but FAIR SHARE FEES are NOT voluntary and have been imposed in ALL of the other 15 unionized states (currently 13 and Wisconsin and Michigan realized that unionization was HARMFUL to providers and the children/family they serve and, therefore, rescinded the illegal executive orders there). Minnesota is a FAIR SHARE STATE and the MINIMUM amount set by MN law is 85% of membership dues. In other states, you pay more if you have kids on subsidy. Governor Dayton’s order DOES NOT say the unions CAN’T take fair share fees (that would be trumping existing law, anyways), so there’s nothing to prevent them from doing so. Simple math shows that they won’t make enough to pay all the salaries they’ve already paid, for the ballots, organizing efforts, etc, PLUS future expenses, if they only get membership dues from 4268 providers (and we know that less than half of them would join the union as the majority are against childcare unionization).

          • newcraft

            Again – the order doesn’t say that the unions can’t take fees – nor does it say that they CAN – you’re only presenting ONE outcome when there are still multiple possibilities here.

            And again – being a “fair share” state does NOT dictate that every union imposes fair share union dues. I know for fact that it doesn’t – my own family member opted out and pays no fair share dues.

            So – I understand your point – but you need to step back and see that there’s a LOT of hyperbole and incomplete “sky is falling” rhetoric being tossed around. This is a time when these rules can be negotiated – and what happens in other states doesn’t dictate what happens here. You mentioned 13 of 15 – that means that there were several states where it IS working – that can’t exactly be swept under the rug and ignored either.

            It’s not a simple thing, and I understand people’s hesitancy. And I disagree with the idea of only allowing those who take the subsidies to vote. But you day care providers aren’t the only people in this state who’ve ever dealt with union issues. There are benefits that you and others aren’t discussing fairly.

            • Kids Rock

              The order doesn’t clarify it, as it shouldn’t as it’s outside his realm of power (as is the entire executive order). It’s an IMPORTANT possibility that the unions could take fair share fees from childcare providers. It is also TRUE that ALL CCAP providers would be unionized as the executive order and the governor’s own FAQs clearly identify them as a “collective bargaining unit” and that the unions would have “exclusive meet and confer” representation of the CCAP providers, if the vote passed (by only a majority of ballots cast!).

              I noted that AFSCME and SEIU were the unions in 13 of the 15 unionized childcare states, so the fact that providers in those states pay fair share fees is entirely relevant. Providers in ALL of the remaining 13 states are overwhelmingly opposed to childcare unionization, even those who were originally in favor of it. Fighting against it is an incredibly expensive and time-consuming battle as we care for children all day, plan projects and lessons in the evenings and weekends, clean, etc. on top of our family responsibilities; AFSCME and SEIU pay people in support of it to try to organize us, lie to providers about the cards they signed (“for more information about health insurance,” for example), and hire legal teams to try to circumvent that pesky Constitution. I personally know of lawsuits being prepared in 3 other states and California’s providers are working against it still, even after Governor Brown (a Democrat) even declared that it would cost Californians too much money and not benefit providers and families.


  • cyndisday

    Someone stay on topic……this is about a GOVERNOR deciding with union officials that he needs to make a ruling to “allow” the vote. This is all outside current labor laws on the books. If they want to create law, what about our legislators and public deciding. Do not put this mess in with your unions. We are not “anti-union” just anti an elected official deciding with union organizers to push a “new” union process on us. Trust me, having the resources of the union leaders pushing on us is not fair nor American. If we all vote, we are all acting outside of labor laws, no rules, nor regulations, no guidlines except what the Governor has decided. Let us work with legislators to figure out if we have the legal right to organize.

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