Rochester Post-Bulletin | Child Care Providers Should Decide for Themselves

Rochester Post-Bulletin | December 13, 2011

By Julie Rustan

Since 2005, family child care providers throughout Minnesota have been working to join together in a union. This wasn’t a decision that was made on a whim; it was a response to a growing crisis facing our industry. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, especially in the recent past, the crisis has worsened.

It is because of this worsening crisis that I decided to stand up and publicly support the movement of my fellow providers to form a union through SEIU Kids First Local 284. In order to improve our industry and the care we provide to the children and families who count on us each day, we need a strong voice at the state capitol.

This need for a strong voice has become even more apparent in the public campaign that has been waged against our desire to form our union, and against Gov. Dayton’s executive order calling for a vote of providers. In the process, we have seen unbelievable distortions, personal attacks and partisan grandstanding directed at us.

All we have asked for is a vote to decide whether or not family child care providers want to form a union. It is a decision that should be made by us — not by political operatives in St. Paul who clearly have no interest in improving our industry or helping working families access child care today.

I’m not a politician. I don’t even like politics. But I’m passionate about the work I do.

The children I care for deserve an honest discussion about the challenges that I face in operating my business. Unfortunately, those against forming a union have decided instead to provide child care providers and the general public with a series of lies and distortions. Most of these are related to decisions that haven’t been made yet, choices that we will make together in a democratic process once the union is formed. When speculation — like the amount of union dues a provider will pay, the membership of the union or the possible scope of activities — is presented as fact, providers receive false and deceptive information.

These decisions will be made by those of us who gather at the table in a democratic process, not by radically partisan politicians in St. Paul who are seeking to deny us any form of democracy, including the vote that was scheduled to begin Dec. 7.

Time and again, family child care providers have seen what happens when we allow others to speak for us. Family child care associations, for instance, do great work providing information and other services. However, they have failed us when it comes to advocating for our industry at the capitol.

Without this needed help, we’ve had to go it alone. That simply hasn’t worked. Today, more than 7,000 Minnesota families are on waiting lists for child care assistance. As a result, each of these families who qualify for the program are unable to access it, making their work or school lives even more insecure then they are now. At the same time, the Legislature continuously cuts funding to the child care assistance program.

Instead of finding a solution to the soaring waiting lists, politicians in St. Paul worsened the problem by cutting funding by 2.5 percent in the most recent budget. Family child care providers are the experts about their industry and have not been at the table. It’s time for that to change.

For far too long, we’ve trusted politicians and associations to represent us in St. Paul. They have failed us. We want and need a voice for our industry, our kids and our families.

I planned to enthusiastically vote “yes” for SEIU Kids First Local 284 before radical special interests orchestrated a lawsuit to block the democratic election process. My desire to form a union hasn’t changed. The future of Minnesota’s children is dependent on high-quality care and early learning.

I remain committed to making sure our industry continues to improve through a stronger, organized voice. I remain committed to a union.

Julie Rustan is a child care provider from Rochester.

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