October 2011

Daycare Providers, Parents, Supporters Stand Together in Favor of Unions

By Abby Faulkner, WJON Radio, St. Cloud

WAITE PARK – Recently, we told you about the rising costs of center-based daycare services in Minnesota. Well, tough economic times are also hitting licensed daycare professionals who operate their own businesses in their homes.

With this in mind, several dozen parents and independent child care providers stood together in favor of unionizing last night.

The group, brought together through the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, has taken a stand in support of creating a union for those who own and operate childcare centers in their homes.

The news conference, held at the Stearns County Service Center in Waite Park, preceded an exploratory public hearing before Minnesota State Health and Human Services committee members.

Union supporters, like parent Kimberly Johnson, argue that childcare provider unions will provide the support day care professionals need to maintain their businesses through tough economic times.

SEIU Executive Director Brian Elliott seconded Johnson’s feelings, stating that more daycare professionals are concerned about the future of their businesses than ever before.

The SEIU reports there are 11,000 licensed in home childcare providers in Minnesota. Of those, more than half have signed union authorizations cards. Currently, 12 states in the U.S. offer union benefits for in-home childcare providers.

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Star Tribune Commentary: Union Would Benefit Providers and Children

Other Views: Union Would Benefit Child-Care Workers — and Children

GWEN FRENCH and MELISSA SMITH
Star Tribune | October 20, 2011

If you wonder what problem we’re trying to solve, start with a scenario from last summer’s shutdown.

To us as family child-care providers, the care and education of Minnesota’s children isn’t just a business opportunity. It is a vocation. We provide a supportive and loving environment for the children we serve, allowing parents to go to work without worry.

Today we face incredible challenges. As the families we work with struggle, so do we.

When state government shut down last summer, many of us were forced to decide whether to stay open without receiving Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) payments or temporarily close our doors. A lot of us stayed open so that parents could keep working.

We needed to make a case to the state of Minnesota that CCAP funding was vital and necessary for all who received it. We needed a strong voice at the State Capitol. We joined together to ensure that the needs of children and their working parents were heard.

More recently, we read the Oct. 3 commentary “Too many questions on day care union.” The authors, state Sens. David Hann and Mike Parry seemed puzzled by the question “what is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

Well, to be honest, Senators, one of the most important problems we face is the fact that many at the Capitol aren’t aware that there is a problem.

In forming a union, we seek to have a stronger voice as we advocate for one another and for the families we serve. We would have the opportunity to share our concerns more effectively as an industry.

We could ensure that the state, as a partner with us, is fully aware of the challenges we face as we continue to improve and standardize how we care for Minnesota’s kids.

Strengthening and stabilizing our industry through increased training and quality standards will certainly move us in the right direction.

We’re not politicians. While some are trying to make this about politics, we’re invested in the children that we serve, not in partisan talking points.

This is about the kids — about ensuring that we are able to provide the highest quality of care and early learning opportunities possible.

Family child-care providers throughout Minnesota should have a choice when it comes to forming a union. An executive order from the governor calling for a vote would allow everyone that choice without forcing them to do anything.

Once the decision is made — by providers, through a vote– then we can decide how to proceed together. Claims to the contrary are simply partisan attacks.

It is time to rise above partisanship and have an honest conversation about the care of Minnesota’s children.

We’re not just business owners. Yes, there is no doubt that we have responsibilities and take pride in having ownership in what we do.

We are invested in every child who walks through our doors, and we ensure they walk into an environment that is safe, nurturing and respectful.

Yes, we manage a lot — from purchasing food and supplies, to making nutritious meals and snacks, to coordinating activities.

But we have a different bottom line: being able to continue to provide quality early learning and care that’s good for children and good for their parents.

Forming a union will allow us to improve those operations and improve the care of Minnesota’s children. We believe that our children deserve the very best.

By joining together with a network of other providers throughout the state, partnering with the state, we can make sure we continue to move in that direction.

We are strong alone, but even stronger together.

* * *

Gwen French, of Maplewood, and Melissa Smith, of Prior Lake, are child-care providers.

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New from Tom Copeland: Putting Democracy to Work

I strongly support the efforts of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to organize family child care providers in Minnesota into a union.

The goal of union organizing is to bring new resources and benefits to family child care providers and parents who use their services. Family child care providers work long hours (on average over 60 hours a week) and often earn only slightly more than the federal minimum wage.

In Ramsey County a licensed family child care provider who cares for parents on the state child care subsidy program currently receives $134.82 a week to care for toddlers or preschoolers. A provider who cares for one toddler, and three preschoolers (all of whom receive state subsidy) would earn approximately $539 per week. This translates into earning $8.98 per hour (60 hours a week). In Beltrami County a licensed family child care provider would earn $466 a week or $7.77 per hour.

These subsidy rates will be lower after the recent cutbacks of the Minnesota legislature take effect.

Unions are democratic, voluntary organizations with decisions made by majority vote. No one can force any family child care provider to join the union. Unions cannot force providers to strike or set rates. Unions cannot mandate to providers about how to run their business or interfere with the relationship between providers and the parents they serve.

Union efforts in other states have helped the child care community and parents by raising the subsidy rates, lowering parent copayments, increasing resources to improve the quality of child care providers, and reforming child care licensing rules and procedures.

The ability of citizens to voluntarily band together to advocate for improved conditions is a basic American value. It’s how our democracy works. To deny family child care providers the ability to organize themselves through a union is a diminishing of civic involvement in our democracy.

I am a licensed attorney who has worked in the family child care field for over 30 years offering assistance to help providers improve their business skills. I’ve written nine books and train and answer questions of thousands of providers each year.

Tom Copeland
Author, Trainer and Advocate
St. Paul, MN

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We Want to Hear From You — Take Our Provider Survey

On August 13th, Kids First child care providers came together from across Southern and Central Minnesota to launch our union and begin to work on making improvements to child care in Minnesota! At the convention, we identified issues and needed improvements to work on in the coming year with DHS. To make our case stronger, we have created this survey to learn more about priority issues facing family child care provides like you! This survey will guide the providers who will be meeting with DHS in the future.

Your name will not be associated with your survey responses without your permission.

Click here to fill out the survey now.

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Minnesota Families Seek Affordable, High-Quality Child Care

By Jennifer Bissell
Pioneer Press
jbissell@pioneerpress.com
Updated: 10/09/2011 11:52:48 PM CDT

Jessica Gerlach said it was difficult to find an affordable day care after a friend could no longer look after her 3-year-old son, Jeffery.

As a single mother and part-time waitress, the St. Paul woman said her options were limited.

“It’s just crazy,” she said. “If you have kids, you have to work. But if you can’t afford day care, you can’t work.”

Gerlach’s predicament is one many Minnesota parents find themselves in. The state ranks among the least affordable for child care, with a $9,900 annual average cost for a center-based day care, according to a recent national study.

The recession has helped lower the average cost of child care slightly, but it also has left more parents struggling to afford day care, increased the number of children receiving public assistance for child care and forced hundreds of providers to close because of low enrollment.

Gerlach eventually found a day care for $80 for 21 hours per week, but it eats up about 15 percent of her income. That, combined with her mortgage payment and food bill leaves little extra money. The next-cheapest day care she found was nearly twice as much, she said.

Families earning less than half of the state’s median income are eligible for day care assistance from the Department of Human Services, but Gerlach’s $24,000 annual income is just above the threshold.

“I’m a single mom, I’m a waitress and I make too much to receive assistance for day care,” Gerlach said. “It’s ridiculous.”

FIFTH, FOURTH LEAST AFFORDABLE

The average cost of child care at a center-based facility in Minnesota decreased about 4.5 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to the most recent report from the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies. The annual cost for infant care dropped 5 percent to $12,900 and for a preschooler dropped 4 percent to $9,900.

The report studied only costs for the state’s roughly 1,500 center-based providers and did not take into account the more than 11,000, typically less expensive licensed in-home care providers.

Despite the drop in cost, Minnesota ranks as the fifth least affordable state for prekindergarten child care, after New York, Montana, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

A single mother making the state’s median income of about $27,000 spends almost 50 percent of her income for full-time child care at a center-based facility, while a two-parent family making the state’s median income of about $86,000, spends nearly 30 percent of their income for two children, according to the association’s report.

Minnesota is among the most expensive for child care partly because the industry is highly regulated by the state, according to Ann McCully, executive director of Minnesota

Child Care. For example, Minnesota requires a lower ratio of staff to children than other states, which requires centers to spend more money on personnel. McCully said it can be difficult for centers to make a profit or simply break even.

HARD TIMES IN DAY CARES, TOO

Since the recession hit, many child care providers have struggled to keep their businesses afloat. Last year alone, 317 child care providers – both centers and in-home – closed, according to Minnesota Child Care, a local branch of the national association.

As unemployment rates soared during the recession, laid-off or underemployed parents took their children out of full-time child care, sending enrollment rates plummeting.

Central Child Care in St. Paul took in just three infants at the height of the recession, down from the usual 18, said the center’s director Michele Hedberg. It’s taken until now to fill the slots again.

“(The recession has) been hard on parents,” Hedberg said. “The staff, too.”

Without the support of the church associated with her center, the day care wouldn’t exist, she said.

But child care centers aren’t the only ones having difficulties. In-home child care providers, which cost about $3,000 to $6,000 less per year than centers, also are struggling.

Running a day care out of her Frogtown home in St. Paul, Julie Dahl said she’s down to only one child now.

After taking care of children for 26 years, she’s never had as few children as in the past couple years.

Everyone has had financial difficulties or lost their jobs, Dahl said.

“I don’t know if things will ever improve,” Dahl said.

Now Dahl just hopes she won’t lose the infant currently in her care. Her husband was laid off in February and the couple worry they might lose their house.

CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE GROWS

During the past couple of years, many parents have come into Hedberg’s office at Central Child Care crying because they had lost a job and needed to take their children out of day care.

Hedberg said she particularly remembers one woman who was sobbing because she had no family to fall back on and had lost what she thought was a secure job.

“It was pretty traumatic for her, figuring out how she was going to survive without a job,” Hedberg said.

“(Parents) are doing everything they can to provide for their families,” she added. “But as my folks used to say, ‘There’s more month than the end of the money.’ ”

As a result, more families have turned to state subsidies to help pay for child care. The number of children receiving this public assistance has increased 13 percent since 2006, according to the state Department of Human Services.

Parents who meet certain thresholds determined by income, number of children and the cost of care are eligible for the program. On average, families receive about $900 per month. Last year, the families of about 33,700 children in Minnesota on average received monthly subsidies.

For parents such as Nyapai Kek of St. Paul, the assistance can be a godsend.

A single mother with three children, Kek said she doesn’t know what she would do without the help.

Kek, whose youngest child is 5 months old, recently found a job. But while she was unemployed and on bed rest during her pregnancy, it was helpful to be able to take her older children to day care.

Kek said she had a friend who could watch her kids but couldn’t always count on her. “She has her own life,” Kek said.

Without assistance, parents who feel they can’t afford child care are stuck making a hard choice between quality and cost, Minnesota Child Care’s McCully said. Some might be able to negotiate for cheaper rates or shorter hours with care providers, but others might turn to unlicensed care.

“That’s not necessarily bad,” McCully said. “You might want your child to stay with a grandparent or sister. But it’s when it’s not a true choice that we worry.”

Resorting to whoever is available at the time can be chaotic and unhealthy for a young child, McCully said. Studies show that how children spend their prekindergarten time can be predictive of future success.

The quality of prekindergarten education can lower the probability of dropping out of school, repeating grades or needing special education, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Fanniece Lucas, a single mother in St. Paul, wanted a good care provider for her almost-3-year-old daughter, but found $1,200 a month that one day care center quoted to be too expensive. That was double what Lucas spent on rent. Even with a small subsidy from the military, it was still too much.

Eventually she found Joy Academy, which can charge less because it partners with outside businesses that donate supplies. Now child care costs Lucas about one-third of her income as she attends school and works about 25 hours a week as a secretary.

“(Kids are) very expensive, but it’s worth it,” Lucas said. “Hearing her laugh and watching her grow – into little people, little adults – it’s a fun process.”

Jennifer Bissell can be reached at 651-265-2481.

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State poverty hits 10.8%, incomes slide

Warren Wolfe, Jeremy Olson
Star Tribune Staff Writers
September 13, 2011

Minnesota’s household incomes dipped sharply, though its poverty rate remained better than the national average.

The recession of 2008-09 wiped out more than a decade’s worth of earnings gains in Minnesota and has left nearly one in six U.S. residents in poverty.

The numbers, released Tuesday by the Census Bureau and collected during 2010, showed both the stark impact of the worst downturn since the 1930s and the sluggish pace of the weak recovery that has followed it. In Minnesota, the census information showed household income dipped 3 percent to $54,785 — the lowest level in 15 years. The number of Minnesotans living below the poverty line hit 10.8 percent, up from 9.6 percent in 2007-08. About 544,000 Minnesotans now live in poverty, a sharp increase since 2000.

One in four Minnesotans, more than 1 million people, were considered “near poor,” with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line. The federal poverty threshold is $11,344 for a single person, or $22,113 for a family of four.

Still, the Minnesota picture was much better than the national one. Nationwide, the poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent, the highest in nearly two decades, and household incomes fell across all categories. The figures come as little surprise to charities such as the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park. “We used to get three to four [new families] a month,” said executive director Michelle Rageth. “Now we get 10 to 12 families every week. Just a lot of middle-class families that we never had before.”

Another closely watched indicator — the share of Minnesotans and Americans without health insurance — showed little change, once measurement error is accounted for.

The report illustrates the hangover effect of the last recession “as well as state budget cuts for programs that help keep people out of poverty,” said Christina Wessel, deputy director of the Minnesota Budget Project at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

State demographer Tom Gillaspy cautioned against placing too much importance on the household income numbers because a different census report next week will offer a larger sample size and perhaps greater accuracy.

“Still,” he added, “the trend is of higher poverty over the last decade and lower incomes for more than a decade, and those are concerning trends.”

Families struggle

The figures are derived from the Census Bureau’s annual survey of poverty, income and health insurance in the United States.

“The recent economic recession and changing economic conditions have had a deep impact on the day to day life of Americans,” Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, said in a conference call with reporters.

The human toll of a weak economy was evident Tuesday at the St. Paul Park food shelf, where one teary-eyed mother, carrying her infant in a car seat, said her family made $150,000 last year.

“And now …” her voice trailed off.

“Don’t you worry,” Rageth replied with a hug. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Stephanie, a single mother from Cottage Grove who asked that her last name not be used, also returned to the food shelf Tuesday. She paid her first visit last fall, when a reduction in her work hours at a South Washington County school and the cost of school supplies for her two boys exhausted her savings. Now, a flood in the basement of her rented townhouse has left her spending money to replace ruined furniture and mattresses.

“It was hard” to rely on charity again, said the 36-year-old, who organizes food drives at her school. “I was thinking about it all day. But I’m not going to be able to make it.”

Plunging income

Tuesday’s report also showed that the economic squeeze is touching more than the poor.

Minnesotans’ median household income has skidded 16 percent since 1999-2000, after inflation is taken into account.

During that time, Minnesota’s income rank dropped from No. 3 nationally to No. 13. Only Michigan had a bigger drop measured in dollars. Georgia had a similar percentage drop.

The Census Bureau said 46.2 million Americans now live in poverty, the most in 52 years of census estimates.

Census officials said the same lingering increase in poverty followed recessions that ended in 2002, 1992, 1983 and 1981.

Median household income nationally for 2009-10 was $50,022, down 9.4 percent from $53,208 a decade earlier.

The number of Americans without health insurance rose by nearly 1 million, from 49 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010.

However, the percentage without coverage, 16.3 percent, was not statistically different from the 2009 rate.

The share of uninsured Minnesotans rose from 8.8 percent to 9.8 percent, but that also was within the margin of error, so it is not clear whether there was an increase, said Stefan Gildemeister, interim director of health economics at the Minnesota Department of Health. “We would like to see that number drop with economic recovery, and we certainly hope it will soon,” he said. “The good news is that it seems to be stable.”

wolfe@startribune.com • 612-673-7253

jeremy.olson@startribune.com • 612-673-7744

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Press Release: Judge Rules Child Care Assistance Core Function of State

Family providers can continue to offer needed care to Minnesota children

South St. Paul — Family child care providers are celebrating and breathing a sigh of relief today as Ramsey County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) a core function of state government.

“Quality child care is an essential service for parents,” said Melissa Smith, a SEIU Kids First member and family child care provider in Prior Lake. “This is a great day for the families we serve and for Minnesota’s economy.”

On June 23, SEIU Local 284 Kids First filed a Motion to Intervene in Ramsey County, which was granted, advocating that child care assistance is essential to the health and welfare of Minnesota’s children. Working with other early learning advocates, Kids First also appeared before special master Kathleen Blatz to appeal Judge Gearin’s original ruling that the entire child care assistance program was not a core function of government.

Sharon Born, a Kids First member and provider from Waseca noted, “With this ruling, I will be able to continue to provide the care and the safe, stable environment that families I work with count on. It’s a relief for me and the parents who are struggling to keep their jobs in this economy.”

“We know our work to improve the quality and affordability of child care is not done,” said Smith. “The legislature’s proposed budget slashes support for early learning, which would leave thousands of more families on the waiting list for child care assistance. The legislature should negotiate with Governor Dayton to give Minnesota’s kids the support they need.”

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SEIU Local 284 Kids First Minnesota unites licensed family child care providers in 37 counties to be a strong voice for quality, affordable child care and investment in Minnesota’s children.

450 Southview Boulevard | South St. Paul, MN | 55075

www.kidsfirstsminnesota.org

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Drive to unionize in-home child care

MARTIGA LOHN, Associated Press

Updated 01:29 p.m., Sunday, September 25, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A union drive among home-based child care providers has emerged as a sticky political issue in Minnesota, raising divisions among those who make a living caring for 130,000 children and pitting union-friendly Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton against legislative Republicans seeking to curb organized labor.

At stake is the status of 11,000 self-employed providers who run child care businesses in their homes.

Two major unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, have spent six years trying to organize the licensed providers and say they have majority support to form a union.

Eliot Seide, who heads AFSCME Council 5, said a union would give the profession a stronger say when it comes to state and local regulation, subsidies given to poor families to help pay for child care and issues including training, health care and grievances with licensing authorities. The union wouldn’t be involved in setting rates for the parents who pay for their children’s care.

State and union officials have yet to lay out a process that would create such a union. Dayton has resisted union pressure to use executive powers to recognize one by decree, saying he won’t act before the providers take an authorization vote. The Bureau of Mediation Services, the state agency that handles labor issues, hasn’t commented on how a union vote could proceed or whether the bureau would be involved.

The prospect of adding Minnesota to 15 states that already recognize home-based child care provider unions has gotten traction with some providers, while raising the hackles of others.

“I have everything to gain, really, and nothing to lose,” said Chrissy Schumann, a day care provider in Grand Meadows who hopes unionizing would lead to better options for purchasing health insurance. “Does it bother me to pay dues? Not really, because I would benefit a lot.”

Opponents including Hollee Saville, a child care provider in St. Michael, fear being forced to join a union and pay dues that would raise costs for businesses already running close to the margins. It’s unclear whether all home-based providers would be required to join a child care union.

“If I’m charged union dues, I’m going to have to pass those costs on to parents,” said Saville, who cares for a handful of children in her St. Michael home west of Minneapolis. “The only people who will gain anything from this are the unions. I would lose my autonomy as an independent, privately owned business.”

Parents have largely been silent in the debate.

Some seek out home-based child care because it costs less than child care centers. In some rural parts of the state, it’s the only day care available. About 3,000 of the licensed home day cares in Minnesota currently receive state subsidies that help poor families cover the cost of care, according to the Department of Human Services.

The Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, the professional group for home-based child care providers, is neutral on the union drive. Executive director Katy Chase said forming a union should require the approval of a majority of home-based child care providers — not just a majority of those voting in a union election.

Seide said that standard would throw another obstacle in the path of a union.

Union organizers said it’s too soon to say how much child care providers would pay in dues if they formed a union — because it would be up to the union members to set the dues. Seide said AFSCME affiliates’ dues in Minnesota generally run in the $30-a-month range.

“We want to lift this profession as a career. Frankly, it’s insulting to call providers babysitters. They are not babysitters. They are professional providers who get licensed, who have certain skills to take care of children — not just take care of them but prepare them for the upcoming life they’re going to lead,” Seide said.

Bureau of Mediation Services Commissioner Josh Tilsen said in an email that the bureau is studying the issue and declined to comment beyond that.

The issue has flared into a touchy political subject.

Republicans who control the Legislature have seized on the union push as an overreach by Dayton and his labor supporters. At a Capitol hearing on Thursday, they questioned Dayton’s legal authority to recognize a day care union.

“I’m hoping that the governor will do the right thing and just back away from this,” said Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, who presided over the hearing.

Dayton accused Republicans of “whipping themselves into a political frenzy for their own purposes.”

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Strong words at the State Capitol over issue of day care provider unionization

http://hometownsource.com/2011/09/22/strong-words-at-the-state-capitol-over-issue-of-day-care-provider-unionization/

October 9, 2011

By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Passionate words and lingering questions highlighted debate on Thursday, Sept. 22 at the State Capitol on the possible unionization of the state’s 11,000 licensed, in-home child-care providers.

Day care provider unionization advocates closely listen to questions coming to them from state senators at an informational hearing at the State Capitol on (Sept. 22. Lisa Thompson, a St. Paul day care provider and Child Care Providers Together spokeswoman, sits at the end of the table. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton charged Senate Republicans were trying to stoke up a “political frenzy” over the issue by holding an informational hearing — one he forbid his commissioners from attending. Using unusually peppery rhetoric, Dayton accused Republicans of “political grandstanding” and argued the informational hearing was needless.

“For something that hasn’t even happened yet — that I haven’t made a decision on yet,” said Dayton of possible actions he could take as governor to foster unionization.

At a Capitol press conference, Dayton repeated that he had given up on the idea of ordering child care provider unionization through executive order.

His attorney is currently examining what legal authority he has in ordering an election among the child care providers to determine whether they want to unionize, Dayton said.

He’s “very sympathetic” with child care workers, and views unionization as one way of improving their wages and benefits, Dayton explained.

Two big unions, the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), through affiliated organizations are actively working to get child care providers to join the initiative.

Child Care Providers Together is the AFSCME affiliate, with Kids First SEIU’s affiliate organization.

According to the unions, more than 50 percent of Minnesota licensed child care providers have signed union authorization cards to help win union recognition.

Gov. Mark Dayton blasted Senate Republicans for holding an informational hearing Sept. 22 on day care providers unionizing, charging Republicans were grandstanding — they shouldn’t even be charging the state for personal expense for showing up for the hearing. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Dayton refused to send administration officials to the hearing because he did not believe a sincere attempt was made to coordinate with the Governor’s Office, he explained.

“I don’t know what the governor is trying to hide,” said Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, Senate state government innovation and veterans committee chairman.

Parry’s committee, in a joint hearing with the Senate health and human services committee, took three hours of testimony from supporters and opponents of unionization.

Both sides were vehement.

“This movement has not happened in a vacuum,” said Lisa Thompson, a St. Paul day care provider and activist with Child Care Providers Together.

Advocates argued that unionizing, something other states have done, would help ensure that day care providers are not crushed by overzealous, bureaucratic regulation.

They anticipated a child care providers’ union as negotiating with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, and  otherwise providing a voice for an often ignored, vital industry, they explained.

“I’m saddened that people think I do this as a hobby,” said child care provider Clarissa Johnston.

The only reason day care providers are getting attention now — getting their 15 minutes of fame — is because of the unions, she argued. “This is a defining moment for us,” she said.

The idea that unionization would result in little kids at day care making “tax-the-rich” art projects with macaronis is ridiculous, she scoffed.

But unionization advocates were vague in answers to questions about day care employees paying union dues or whether a majority vote meant all day care workers would be forced into the union.

Denise Welte, a SEIU organizational director, as other advocates said such decisions would be made by the providers.

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, studies a document while Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, shares a lighter moment prior to the start of the hearing. Republicans argue the hearing was timely. (Photo by T.W Budig)

“When we get there,” she said of completing the organizing. “We don’t have all the answers you’re looking for at this moment.”

Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, an educator and union member, argued that key questions were getting “dodging.”

“Personally, I would not join anything if I didn’t have the details first,” she said.

Other senators struggled with concept of private businesses unionizing.

“Who’s the oppressor?” asked Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville.

Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, a union supporter, also indicated she was struggling. “I’m having trouble with this one, to be honest,” she said.

A number of day care providers spoke out against the possible unionization of the industry.

“The union cannot help us with that,” said Pat Gentz, of Pat’s Precious People Family Child Care in Lakeville, of establishing a trusting relationship with parents. “You need to understand that our occupation is really a calling.”

You cannot legislate love, and you certainly cannot unionize it, said Gentz.

Some unionization opponents charged that union officials were being deceptive in their dealings with providers.

The Republican committee chairmen expressed a willingness to hear legislation next session dealing with the unionization initiative.

But Goodwin suggested that such legislation did not stand a chance in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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Dayton: GOP Grandstanding over Day Care Unions

Republicans say concerned providers resist idea

Updated: Thursday, 22 Sep 2011, 11:57 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 22 Sep 2011, 7:46 PM CDT

by Jeff Goldberg / FOX 9 News

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The effort to unionize day care has become the latest political hot-button issue in Minnesota, and Gov. Mark Dayton is considering it while criticizing Republicans for “political grandstanding” over the issue.

According to Dayton, the creation of a home daycare provider’s union is far from beginning soon. In fact, the governor is leaving for Asia on Friday for a 10-day trade mission.

Though Dayton has repeatedly said he has not come to a decision on the issue, it’s already turning into a heated political battle.

On Thursday night, Republicans held informational hearings on the issue, but Dayton said the forum was nothing but “political grandstanding” meant to whip people into a frenzy.

Two of the state’s largest unions — SEIU and AFSCME — are making an effort to unionize the more than 11,000 in-home child care providers across Minnesota. Republicans say they are hearing from providers who are scared and concerned about the proposal, and that’s why decided to hold the hearing.

“[The governor has] already created a situation where people are nervous,” said Sen. Mike Parry. “They think there will be more government intervention, and that’s what our governor seems to be wanting to do.”

Dayton, however, called the hearing a waste of taxpayer money and said the issue is not so pressing that it should be dealt with while the Legislature is not in session.

“They’re whipping up a frenzy of people concerned about this — and providing a lot of misinformation, implying that I have decided to do something I haven’t,” Dayton said.

At a Thursday press conference, the governor said he will not use an executive order to establish a union, adding that he also has not decided on whether providers should vote on unionizing. The unions, who have been mobilizing on this issue for years said they believe it would pass if provoders voted.

Republicans say providers who are against unionization believe it would result in higher overhead costs during tough economic times. Supporters say forming a union would give them a stronger voice when standing up for their needs and interests on issues like health care.

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