DFL Gov. Mark Dayton announced Tuesday he wants Minnesota’s state-subsidized licensed child-care providers to vote on whether to form a union.

“There are two sides to this issue,” he said in a statement. “Some child-care providers are in favor of joining a union, and some are opposed. The fairest way, the American way, to settle this dispute is to have an election.”

Dayton issued an executive order calling for the Bureau of Mediation Services to conduct the election within 60 days. If child-care workers vote to form a union, membership would be voluntary.

Republicans have blasted the idea, holding hearings and urging the governor not to allow Minnesota’s child-care workers to unionize.

“At first blush, I am very disappointed in the direction the governor has taken,” said state Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca. “I believe it’s the wrong direction. I believe he is focusing on a very small percentage of day care providers.”

Dayton has been wrestling for months with a dispute over whether to allow child-care workers to have union representation when dealing with the state, which subsidizes child-care for low-income Minnesotans.

Labor groups have been trying unionize Minnesota's more than 11,000 licensed, in-home child-care providers. Two of the state's largest unions have been going door to door to solicit support of child-care workers.

Dayton’s order fell short of what unions sought – automatic unionizion of the workers.

Union leaders were prepared for the governor’s announcement, passing out a news release saying they were already in campaign mode.

“Providers who choose to join together in union will gain a strong voice to work with the state to increase the quality of child care,” said Clarissa Johnson, a child-care provider in Mounds View.

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