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DFL Lawmakers Revive Child Care Unionization

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77648_Pat Kessler WEB Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Monday calling for a union election. It would give Minnesota child care providers a chance to vote on whether to form a union.

Republicans aggressively fought the child care union when they controlled the legislature. But after Democrats won the House, the Senate and the governor’s office – the union will get a much more sympathetic hearing.

The female-dominated child care industry is often low paid, and with long hours. And it’s the industry which Minnesota subsidizes so many low-income parents can go to work. Sen. Sandy Pappas says these workers deserve more.

“They’re much more than babysitters and they deserve respect. All of them deserve respect for doing one of the toughest and important jobs imaginable,” Pappas said.

The day care union would be for providers who receive state subsidies: about 4,700 of the estimated 11,000 in the state. But providers like Becky Swanson oppose unions, and she would not be allowed to vote anyway because she does not accept subsidies.

“We are small business. We are not workers of the state of Minnesota, nor are we workers for the union,” Swanson said.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order in 2011 to force a union vote, but a judge ruled the effort unconstitutional. Now that Democrats control the entire State Capitol. Republican Rep. Mary Franson says the bill is a union reward.

“The unions campaigned, gave lots of money to the DFL candidates during the election cycle. They are expecting payback,” Franson said.

But the bill introduced by Democrats does not actually form a union – it simply sets up the vote. If it passes, the state’s largest public employees union would negotiate rates and regulations on behalf of providers.

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