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Possibility of union divides child care providers

The possibility of a state sanctioned union in Minnesota has many family child care providers energized. Yet some are in favor of the idea while others are working to stop it.

Both sides of the debate are hoping to sway Gov. Mark Dayton, who has the executive authority to grant bargaining rights to licensed family child care providers, to their side. Both sides have set up websites, Facebook pages and informational campaigns to communicate with day care providers. And both sides are doing what they think is best for Minnesota families.

Among those who support a child care provider union is Melissa Smith, a member of SEIU-Kids First and a licensed family child care provider. She met with Dayton in late August and said she was pleased that he listened to her concerns and supports early learning.

"However, we’re looking forward to a day when all providers' ideas will receive a hearing, and will be recognized for the critical service providers give to their communities," she said. "As small business owners and the first educators of the youngest Minnesotans, we know firsthand what it takes to deliver high-quality care that’s affordable to all the families we serve. We will continue to operate our businesses with our own unique ways, but with a united voice at the state level so we can continue to offer quality care."

Jackie Harrington and Jennifer Parish, both licensed family child care providers in Rochester, were among a group of providers who met with the governor's staff Aug. 17 to share their concerns about how a union would not be good for families or providers, noting that as small business owners they don't have the need for a union like employees might. In the month leading up to the meeting, their group had collected about 500 petitions of providers who do not want to be part of a union, Harrington said.


"After five years of research, we are a great resource," Harrington said. "We have a depth that their research aids won't be able to get from the Internet. We hope they reach out to us and include us."

Parrish said she heard from a provider who recently received a letter from the governor asking her to share her feelings of the unionization of child care providers in 1,000 words or less. But she hopes all child care providers would get to have their voices heard.

"If he sees that this will benefit us, we are asking him to let us vote under the State Bureau of Mediation Services or labor board that oversees public unions," Parrish said. "The proposed union is not covered under any of those boards so there's no way to file a desertification."

If authorized, Minnesota would be one of more than a dozen states to unionize child care providers.

"۬Providers are organizing their union so that they can have a voice with the state and see their common-sense ideas about how to improve care actually considered and implemented," said Denise Welte, organizing director for SEIU-Kids First Local 284. ۬

She noted that child care was ruled an "essential service" during the state government shutdown, an effort supported by SEIU Kids First providers.

"That ruling shows what providers can do when they join together to make their voice heard with government," Welte said.

So far, though, neither side has persuaded the governor which way to rule.


"Our office is continuing to gather information on this topic, but no final decisions have been made yet," said Katharine Tinucci, a spokeswoman for Gov. Dayton's office.

At this point there isn't an estimated timeline of when a final decision would be made, she said.

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