Although many states are passing laws intended to destroy both private and public sector unions, Minnesota may move to do the opposite for its independent child care providers.
Minnesota is considering a law that would enable unionization for individuals who care for young children in their homes and who are paid largely with subsidies working parents receive from the state.
Minnesota State Sen. Sandra Pappas and Minnesota State Rep. Michael Nelson introduced legislation last week that would allow their state’s 9,000 independent child care providers to vote to form a union.
Such an organization, like child care unions in other states, would help these low-paid workers receive better wages, get health care coverage and attend training to improve their skills.
Child care unions are distinctive because instead of unifying workers in a single work place, like a large daycare center, they bring together independent small business owners, all of whom work out of their own homes.
All members of these unions get a portion of their income from the state by caring for youngsters who are enrolled in the state’s need-based Child Care Assistance Program. Parents give these child care providers co-payments, and the state government provides the remainder of the wages these workers receive for supervising qualifying children.
As a result, the level of state subsidy greatly influences independent child care workers’ wages, making subsidies a key concern for child care unions.
Child care unions, which are generally supported by large national unions like the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), negotiate with the state’s Department of Human Services to reach collective agreements that address reimbursement rates and other industry regulations.
These union contracts do not impact the amount that parents pay.
Because child care providers receive state funds, the state government must grant child care providers permission before they can vote on whether to form a union.
Since 2005, sixteen states authorized union elections for in-home child care providers. In 2010, Republican lawmakers began walking back bargaining rights for child care providers. As a result, now only seven states formally recognize child care unions.
This hasn’t stopped independent child care workers in states like Minnesota and Vermont from fighting for bargaining rights in their states.
The proposed legislation in Minnesota is the state’s second attempt to allow child care workers to unionize. In 2011, Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order authorizing a union election. His order was overturned when a Ramsey County district judge ruled the state legislature must weigh in on the issue. That is what’s occurring now. (more…)