Celebrating the Anniversary of a Victory Against Fake Unionization: Child Care Provider Freedom

“After eleven years of facing labor organizers at their doors, Minnesota in-home child care providers overwhelmingly rejected union representation in an election decided today in St. Paul.”

That was our news to you on March 1, 2016. It has been two years since child care providers around the state did something truly remarkable: they defeated a prolonged and well-financed attempt to convert their homes and businesses into union workplaces.

These amazing women got organized to defeat AFSCME-5, and are still working hard to protect their businesses from unreasonable regulations and interference from the state.

The Center helped out with a postcard campaign to all the providers.

Tom Steward and I were there for the vote count in St. Paul; it was thrilling! It is important to remember how the left plays the game, and to celebrate and recall our victories.

Governor Dayton and the DFL majority in 2013 declared independent business women “state employees” so they could be unionized by Dayton’s political donors and ally, AFSCME-5. How in the world could he do that? Dayton and his cronies, in “Blue States” around the country, said that because some childcare providers accept low-income kids whose parents receive childcare subsidies, they are subject to unionization as public-sector employees.

But there were no actual employee benefits; just the privilege of paying dues to friends of the governor.

“Providers have been saying ‘no’ to the unions for so long, it just feels so good that we’ve finally been heard,” said Lakeville provider Pat Gentz.

The 2013 legislation, passed along a party line vote, paved the way for unions to try to divert some of the $270 million in taxpayer subsidies for families in need under the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) into their own coffers.

Despite more than a decade of organizing, card campaigns and expenditures, AFSCME-5 garnered 392 votes, compared to 1,014 for providers opposed to the union.

The margin of victory announced by Bureau of Mediation Services officials stunned even the most ardent child care providers monitoring the results of the mail ballot election.

“The fact that child care providers not only beat the union, but did it in such a landslide, even though the odds were stacked against us, proves what we’ve been saying for many years now,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester provider and leader of the Coalition of Union Free Providers.  “Childcare providers want nothing to do with AFSCME.” [Parrish and providers in Minnpost photo below]

State officials had faced criticism for excluding most of the estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed child care providers statewide from the mail balloting. Only 2,348 providers who received payment for a subsidized child in December 2015 were eligible to vote, under the state’s view of the law.  Yet all providers would have been affected by licensing, grievance and regulatory issues covered in contract negotiations.

“I’m so happy I can go back to my CCAP family and tell them they can stay with me,” said Tracy Stengel, a provider and election observer. “She was in tears at my front door, when I told her I didn’t know what her future was.”

“This had a big impact nationally,” said Doug Seaton, a Twin Cities attorney who also represents several providers in continuing legal action.  “I think other states will take away from this that if they don’t have it yet, it can be stopped. And if they do have it, there are opportunities to unravel it.” [Hollee Saville and Doug Seaton below]

Childcare provider Hollee Saville of St. Michael says on Wednesday, May 29, 2013, that people like her are business owners and should not belong to unions. Looking on is attorney Doug Seaton, who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of providers to overturn a new Minnesota law allowing unions. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

We checked; no other states have even attempted to union child care providers since AFSCME-5 was stopped so decisively in Minnesota. And we have good news: the 2013 legislation that allowed this to happen has expired.

The stinging defeat ended a divisive process resulting from that controversial 2013 bill that classified child care providers and home care workers as state employees for purposes of collective bargaining.

American Experiment and a group providers (MNPCA), with help from Doug Seaton, are still fighting to free personal care attendants from the grips of the SEIU and Governor Dayton’s Department of Human Services. PCAs were “unionized” by the SEIU in 2104. Most of them, who care for a disabled family member, and are paid through a Medicaid program, had never heard of the SEIU or the election until we contacted them asking for help decertifying the union. We have almost 11,000 cards from providers around the state asking for a new election. The Dayton administration has fought MNPCA every step of the way. The SEIU is skimming millions from Medicaid payments to PCAs in Minnesota; we estimate the dues-skim is about $250 million around the country.

It is a lot easier to defeat these fake unionization schemes at the ballot box than to run a decertification effort, especially when you are up against the Dayton administration. But this kind of fraud on the disabled and taxpayers must be opposed. (If you want to donate to help us keep up the fight, we would be grateful.)