Dayton urged to broaden vote on child care union

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 21, 2011 - 8:11 PM

All providers would be affected and should have a voice, some advocates for child care operators say.

Gov. Mark Dayton's order for a vote on whether some in-home child care providers can join a union came under attack Monday from providers and advocates who say most of those affected will not be able to vote.

"All providers will be affected by unionization, and all should have a right to vote," Katy Chase, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, told a legislative hearing.

Dayton last week issued an executive order that will allow 4,300 providers who care for children whose families receive subsidies to vote on union representation. They make up less than 40 percent of the state's total 11,000 providers.

Chase's group, an advocacy and lobbying group for licensed in-home providers, urged the governor to "retract and revise" that order.

Chase and others told a House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee on Monday that Dayton's order could result in unions negotiating changes that would apply to all providers, regardless of whether they are in the union. She wants Dayton to require a vote among all providers before any unions are recognized.

The bumpy road to unionizing child care providers seemed to be smoothing out last week when Dayton issued his order in response to requests from two unions. The governor ordered elections to determine if the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) should represent those providers who have children in the state subsidy program. Only those providers would vote in the election, tentatively scheduled as a mail-in balloting Dec. 7-21.

Two Senate committee chairmen, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, and Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, contend Dayton lacks legal authority to order such an election and vowed to "do everything in our power, including legal action, to make sure he is not able to proceed.''

Dayton's order states that if the unions win, state agencies shall "meet and confer" with them on issues that include quality standards, training, reimbursement rates, benefits, changes to the state's early-childhood education services and monitoring and evaluating providers. The order states that if they reach agreements, both sides will seek administrative or legislative permission to put the changes into effect.

Chase said the order opens the "meet and confer" process up to changes that could affect all providers. Her position found support among Republicans on the committee, particularly when Josh Tilsen, commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services, which will conduct the election, said he was unsure if decisions made by the unions could affect other providers.

Dinah Spurgin, a licensed provider from Nicollet County, said she fears "union intervention in my private business'' if the election goes forward as planned. "Please, I'm asking you to give me a voice in this matter,'' she said.

A spokeswoman for Dayton said the governor limited the election to providers who have a relationship to the state via the subsidy program, and said the "meet and confer" process would not affect other providers without legislative changes and full discussion and debate. She said Dayton has no plans to amend his order.

Union officials did not appear at the meeting. Jennifer Munt, an AFSCME spokeswoman, said any changes negotiated by the unions "would positively affect anyone who cares about parents and kids.''

Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, chairman of the committee, said he agreed with Chase that all providers should be allowed to vote. Unlike his Senate counterparts, he said he had no plans to sue to block Dayton's order from going into effect.

Jim Ragsdale • 651-925-5042

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