Editorial on child-care unions was wrong

  • Article by: LISA THOMPSON and JENNIFER MUNT
  • Updated: September 30, 2013 - 8:16 PM

The Star Tribune Editorial Board’s zealously degrading opposition is inconsistent with its other positions.

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Counterpoint

Minnesota’s in-home child-care providers, wrongly labeled “babysitters,” have long been denied basic labor protections, including the right to form a union and be paid at least a minimum wage.

It’s shocking that the Star Tribune supports a continuation of that injustice against the women who help raise Minnesota’s poorest children (“An alarming pitch for day care unions,” Sept. 24).

The Star Tribune’s venomous opposition to a child-care union seems inconsistent with past editorials that oppose “right to work” laws and support raising the minimum wage and closing the achievement gap. Readers deserve answers.

If “right to work” is wrong for Minnesota, why is it right for child-care providers? If low-wage workers deserve a raise, why is it OK for child-care providers to live in poverty? If early education is money well-spent, why not invest in the providers who prepare disadvantaged children to succeed in school and life?

The newspaper wisely editorialized summer that Minnesota needs a higher minimum wage. A majority of Minnesotans agree, and so does our union, Child Care Providers Together/AFSCME. We also agree that increasing family income will improve child outcomes.

Minimum-wage earners are people we depend on every day. Yet thousands of the women who care for poor children aren’t paid enough to care for their own families.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, home-based child-care providers who are subsidized by the state earn less than minimum wage. They deserve the opportunity to negotiate a raise.

The Star Tribune’s anti-union editorial parrots the words of extreme right-wing agents, like the National Right to Work Foundation and the Freedom Foundation. Beware of these groups: They’re about less freedom and fewer rights.

If Minnesota had continued down their path of slashing education, our children would have to accept a life of lower expectations. Instead, our state wisely chose to invest in every learner from preschool through college, and to partner with the professionals who teach and help us raise our kids. All-day kindergarten and scholarships that help parents afford child care and college — that’s our path to a better Minnesota where opportunity is abundant.

Keeping kids healthy, learning and safe is priority No. 1 for pro-union child care providers. We want to lift our profession with training in first aid, CPR, safe sleep practices and more. That training needs to be both affordable and accessible. Today, it’s not.

For example, to get certified in first aid and CPR, some providers have to pay nearly $300. Providers in Greater Minnesota often have to travel for training and are forced to close their business for those days. We’re uniting to get the training we need at a cost we can afford near where we do business.

Last week was “Infant Safe Sleep Week” in Minnesota, thanks in part to the Star Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of deaths at day cares. Many “crib death” tragedies are preventable with proper training. That’s why providers have to talk with parents about safe sleep at home.

Today’s tip: By placing infants to sleep on their backs in a crib free of blankets, pillows, bumper pads and toys, newborns are less susceptible to SIDS. Newborns form a routine where being put in their crib is the sign that it’s time to sleep.

When nap time is over and the kids finally go home, child-care providers spend countless hours planning a curriculum, shopping, preparing meals, cleaning up, and dealing with all the challenges of running a small business. Like all businesses, we need rules, regulations and enforcement that is consistent.

Our work is affected by county inspectors, state regulators and elected politicians whose rules often conflict. One licenser will tell a provider to turn up the water heater to rinse germs off the dishes. Another will tell a provider to turn down the water heater to avoid scalding a child.

Why can’t everyone enforce the 120-degree rule? It’s a temperature that protects every child’s health and safety.

Our blood boils because the Star Tribune shamed three child-care providers by name. The editorial said that these women plan to “leverage the union’s collective strength to resist regulation” and it “ought to outrage parents.”

Parents love these providers because they love the children in their care. The misguided editorial inferred that these amazing caregivers don’t care about safety. Like the National Right to Work groups, the newspaper denied them a voice.

Our great-grandmothers were denied their right to vote until 1920. Suffrage didn’t come easy for them. Like strong women before us, child-care providers won the right to vote for a union.

With iron will and hope in our hearts, we unite to lift up our profession. We advocate for quality care that parents can afford. We prepare Minnesota’s children for success in school and life.

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Lisa Thompson is president of Child Care Providers Together. She runs a home-based child care in St. Paul. Jennifer Munt is director of public affairs and public policy for AFSCME Council 5.

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