Are child-care union organizers being upfront?

Jennifer Parrish operates a day care in her northwest Rochester home. She says providers should be aware that union organizers are conducting a door-knocking campaign in the area.

Some people allege union organizers aren't being upfront that they're trying to form a union of home child-care providers.

Service Employees International Union Local 284 Kids First, which represents southeastern Minnesota, in conjunction with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are conducting a door-knocking campaign as a way to seek support from licensed family home child-care providers to establish the union.

When an organizer came to her house, Jackie Seifert, a Rochester child care provider, agreed to fill out contact information on a postcard to get more information about health insurance and preparing children for school. Never did the woman say that she was trying to form a union for day-care providers or that by signing that card that she was signifying her support, Seifert said.

Rochester day-care provider Jennifer Parrish has teamed up with Jackie Harrington, president of the Olmsted County Child Care Association Family Child Care Inc., to make sure providers are informed about the union campaign. Parrish and Harrington have collected several testimonials from providers who describe their encounters with union organizers and set up an email account so providers can send in their experiences and request help in getting their cards back, Parrish said.

"You have to understand licensed child-care providers are taking care of six to 10 children, and these representatives come at lunch time when they are busy or when parents are picking up kids so they sign for more information or sign to get rid of them because they have a prepared response for every reason you tell them no," Parrish said.

But Denise Welte, lead organizer with SEIU Kids First, takes issue with the allegation of misrepresentation.

"We are proud of who we are and who we represent," she said.

All of the union representatives wear a button that reads "SEIU Kids First, a strong voice in quality child care" as well as a photo ID when they are door knocking, Welte said. Plus the card that providers sign clearly states that yes, they support organizing with other providers, she said.

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