Local child care providers watch bill closely

Published 4:35 pm Saturday, May 18, 2013

Local child care providers are watching and waiting as the state Legislature debates a controversial bill that could allow in-home day care providers and personal care attendants to unionize.

Nearly 100 amendments await Minnesota House lawmakers as soon as they debate the issue. Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said she has heard from many people on the bill but believes the bill will likely pass on the House floor.

“A majority of the time, if the bill comes before the [whole] House, it’s going to pass,” she said.

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The volume foreshadows a long fight should the House brings the bill up on Saturday as planned.

The Legislature has until midnight Monday to finish its session, including passage of the next state budget.

Local legislators have heard from proponents and critics of the bill, as many child care providers are divided on the issue. Child care providers who care for children receiving state subsidies would be able to vote to form a union, and at least 500 providers would have to vote in favor for a unit under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME. Supporters say it will give providers greater leverage in bargaining for state reimbursement rates. Critics see it as a grab for union dues.

Several local child care providers aren’t sure what the latest versions of the bill would detail, but they say a move to unionize could give rural child care providers enrichment opportunities for the children in their care.

“They could pay a music person to come into my home and teach the kids music,” said Chrissy Schumann, a Grand Meadow child care provider. “It’s just more options for the kids.”

The debate on a companion Senate bill stretched 17 hours earlier in the week.

The bill is part of an effort by two service employee unions to organize in the personal care industries. It would set up a possible vote among certain providers.

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, supported the bill, which passed 35-32 early Wednesday and said the bill doesn’t require child care providers and personal care assistants to form, but allows workers to explore the possibility.

“That’s the key message to take,” Sparks said.


—The Associated Press contributed to this report.