On Nov. 15, Governor Dayton signed an executive order allowing an election to unionize home daycare providers.
This election will take place from Dec. 6-20 by mail-in ballot to selected homes. It will be coordinated, paid for, and have its results tallied by the unions AFSCME (Child Care Providers Together) and SEIU (Kids First).
Not every provider will be allowed to vote; instead 4,600 will vote for roughly 11,000 Minnesota licensed childcare providers.
Only providers who serve families that receive CCAP (Child Care Assistance Program) funding will be allowed to vote.
Some providers have said they would accept CCAP families but will still be denied a ballot. As a result, many independent daycare owners have expressed concerns over the fairness of this process and the potential lack of transparency and/or accountability in carrying out the election.
The Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA) wrote to the governor asking for a fair vote that will include all licensed daycare providers in Minnesota.
In Rochester on Oct. 24, I heard testimony from those in favor of the AFSCME and SEIU proposal and those who were adamantly against the formation of a daycare union.
The union representatives would not answer the questions regarding “fair-share” dues and said they would have to wait until after the union is formed and a new board decides on that issue.
Although the executive order states that membership will be optional (No. 10), Minnesota is not a “right to work” state, so the union could mandate a percentage of dues from non-members be paid (usually around 75 percent).
Who will pay for the additional dues owed to the union?
Some providers may pass the cost to the families they serve; others may take it out of their own profit margin. Either way, the union gets more money and working families get less.
MLFCCA currently offers all of the services that the union says it will offer: training, pooling for benefits, and a legislative voice at the capitol for a $35 annual membership fee. I called MLFCCA to confirm this fee. I was also told the only difference between their association and what the union will offer is that they do not endorse political candidates.
At the capitol on Nov. 21, Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services Commissioner Josh Tilsen testified on how the election will be overseen. Many questions were raised regarding the process of the election: Who gets a ballot, will there be clear wording about the impact of the vote, what is the timing to return ballots, who will collect them?
Overall, the two main concerns are whether this is a legal process and why every licensed provider doesn’t get a vote? Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL lead on the Commerce Committee) stated: "If you are going to be impacted, you ought to have a vote."
Proponents say that the union will not have an impact on providers who do not join.
However, in a letter dated Nov. 23, 2011, from the Department of Human Services (which issues daycare licensing), Commissioner Lucinda Jesson wrote, “…examples of these issues (that will impact all providers) include quality standards, and quality rating systems, the availability of training opportunities, changes to the state system of providing early childhood education services, and the monitoring and evaluation of family child care providers through licensure.”
Hence, legislative changes will affect all home daycare providers regardless of membership.
Testifier Cyndi Cunningham talked of questionable tactics used by union representatives at the homes of the providers. Complaints included falsifying identification of agencies, why a representative was at the door, and coercion to sign a card to join “Kids First” or “CCPT.”
MLFCCA said they received several complaints of “intimidation” and told their members if they feel threatened to call 911.
Both AFSCME and SEIU declined to testify during the committee hearing—some say because of a threat of a lawsuit by the Legislature.
Since then, a lawsuit has been filed in Ramsey County—not by the Legislature, but by the childcare providers themselves.
What exactly is the message our governor trying to send to Minnesotans with this executive order? By comparison, two states rescinded childcare provider unions in 2011: Wisconsin and Michigan. Gov. Jerry Brown (DFL: California) recently vetoed a bill that would have unionized childcare providers in his state.
In a letter to the Legislature dated Nov. 29, 2011, Dayton defended his decision—stating that only those who work for CCAP families will be unionized. He also noted that many other non-union businesses are impacted by union-led mandates within those industries. Finally, he states that this effort has been blocked for several years, and this vote is a right to make decisions “among themselves for themselves.”
Too many providers will not get a vote on a decision that will impact them.
There is no reason home-based, independent business owners need to be unionized since the services are already offered. Moreover, people who have voiced concerns directly to me are at a ratio of about 80 opposed to 1 in favor.
Please contact Governor Dayton’s office and ask him to rescind or revise his executive order.
—Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury)