By Starrla Cray
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN On Aug. 1, a new state law took effect, allowing the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to move forward with an attempt to unionize in-home childcare providers who accept Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) payments.
“I’m against it,” said Dawn Chaffins of Delano, who has been a daycare provider since 1993. “It’s just a little more government sticking in the parents’ business.”
“I’m not for it at all I’m not sure why anyone would want it,” agreed Mary Madson of Cokato, who has been a daycare provider the past 19 years.
According to a fact sheet from State Senator Scott Newman, District 18, a union would force childcare providers to choose between caring for children on assistance and paying the union, or turning those children away.
“I believe childcare provider unionization will make care more expensive for providers, families, and taxpayers alike, as it seeks to unionize independent businesses,” Newman noted. “All childcare providers should be able to provide quality, affordable services to parents without government interference or being compelled to join any organization.”
Union formation steps
Several steps would need to take place before a union can be formed, including an election.
Union representatives have been contacting in-home licensed and unlicensed childcare providers, looking for signatures on a union authorization/support card. Providers who sign the card are showing support for a union election.
If 500 support cards are collected, union representatives will then seek signatures from 30 percent of eligible childcare providers (about 3,600 people).
From there, a union election could take place. Ballots would be mailed out, and only returned ballots count as a vote. Only childcare providers who have received state subsidies from CCAP within the past 12 months would be eligible to vote.
Voting and membership
Although LaJean Hoof of Lester Prairie (a daycare provider since 1976) doesn’t currently have children on CCAP, she’s planning to register so she can “at least have a say in the matter.”
“I feel it should be voted on by all daycare providers, not just the ones getting the payments,” she said.
If a union is formed, only providers registered for CCAP could become members. Although membership is voluntary, Minnesota law requires non-members pay their “fair share” of dues, Newman’s fact sheet stated. Typically, “fair share” fees are 85 percent of regular dues.
Dues won’t be determined until a union contract is negotiated, but according to a May 20 Fox 9 article, dues in Minnesota are projected to be $25 per month ($300/year).
At least half of the state’s CCAP childcare providers will need to join the union in order for it to be established, the article stated.
“I think a lot of the people pushing for it are in the Twin Cities,” Hoof said. “I don’t feel a lot of rural people are for it.”
In Wright County, there are 382 in-home childcare providers listed on childcarecenter.us.
Carver County has 170 listed; McLeod County has 117; and Meeker County has 49.
Several area daycare providers said that requiring providers to pay dues or a fee will likely deter them from accepting children on CCAP.
“I used to be registered, but the past couple years I haven’t had any it seems to run in streaks,” Madson said. “I had a family drop in the other day who might go for assistance, and my thought was, ‘Oh no. If I have to pay union dues, I probably won’t be able to take them.’”
Chaffins said the cost of the union dues/fees will probably be passed on to parents.
“That money is going to have to come from somewhere,” she said.
“I think it’s really going to hurt low-income families,” Hoof added.
As for benefits childcare providers would receive from the union, Newman’s fact sheet states that the union would seek authority to bargain grievance issues, terms, and conditions of service.
“It is not clear how a self-employed person working out of their own home would benefit through union representation,” the sheet stated.
One claim is that members would have access to group health insurance rates, but groups of childcare providers are already able to obtain group rates.
“They can do nothing for us,” said Winsted resident Carol Kappel, who has been providing childcare services for more than 46 years.
“Other states have done it, and they haven’t gotten anything for it,” she said.