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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