Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s lunchtime at Cyndi Cunningham’s in home day care where for the past 15 years she’s operated her non-union business, caring for the children of working parents.
Now, her non-union status would be forced to change under legislation approved in the closing hours of the legislative session. By a 68-66 vote, the Minnesota house passed a measure granting the right to unionize Minnesota’s in-home child care providers and personal care attendants.
The law would require any day care provider of a child on state assistance to join or pay their fair share union dues. That assistance is known as the Child Care Assistance program.
“At this point in time I can conduct business with anybody I want without reprisal. It’s my choice, my freedom and the family’s freedom. This puts a constriction on what families of similar providers can choose to do,” Cunningham said.
Despite heated legislative debate and vocal protests at the capitol, it’s now up to the state’s 12,700 licensed and unlicensed in home child care providers to decide if they want the right to collective bargaining.
“They won what they’ve been fighting for a decade,” Jennifer Munt said.
Munt is the director of public policy for AFSCME, the union which now has until 2017 to put the matter up to a vote.
“What we’ve heard from providers is that they like to raise the reimbursement rates, improve access to good training and take care of families on the waiting list for child care support,” Munt said.
Presently, 16 other states allow day care providers to unionize. Cunningham expects a legal challenge on grounds the new law will force providers like her to pay for a union they don’t want or need.
“It’s a dramatic change in our business,” Cunningham said.
The state’s 12,000 personal care attendants (PCAs) are also covered by the law and will be allowed to vote on union representation.