Kim Crocket Letter to Star Tribune Re: Unionizing Child-Care Providers

Letter to the Editor:

The Star Tribune has done a great job covering the attempt by Gov. Dayton to help AFSCME unionize child-care providers (“Minnesota’s child-care providers say no to unionizing”, March 2, 2016).

I am writing because an otherwise good article reporting on AFSCME’s decisive loss on March 1st, had an odd conclusion and quote:

Aaron Sojourner, a labor economist with the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, said Tuesday’s loss for AFSCME stands in “stark contrast” to the home-care worker vote.

“This touches on some of the changes in the economy. You see more people seeing themselves as independent businesses,” he said. “We have fewer manufacturing workers and what we have more of is people providing care to one another — that’s health care, child care, Uber. … There’s this growing breakdown of this traditional employment and traditional union.”

The women who rejected joining AFSCME do not merely “see themselves as independent businesses.” They ARE independent businesses and fought long and hard against Gov. Dayton and the union to stay that way. This has nothing to do with “changes in the economy.” There was never any employer/employee relationship between these child-care providers and the state.

The only relationship is between low-income parents who get a subsidy from taxpayers to get help affording quality child care, and the state of MN that offers the subsidy. And that relationship was exploited by legislators in 2013 to pass a law allowing the unionization of these child-care providers.

It is important not to conflate these relationships. Otherwise, at least in theory, the state can extend “state employee” status to anyone who directly or indirectly gets a state subsidy; those “state employees” can then collectively bargaining over the subsidy they receive. Setting aside lots of other policy objections like unionizing private businesses, or the wisdom of allowing people to collectively bargain over the size of their subsidy, isn’t setting subsidy levels something legislators are supposed to do?

The Strib got it right earlier in the article:

Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester child-care provider and a leader of the Coalition of Union Free Providers, said the results of the vote weren’t surprising….”Family child-care providers are small business owners. … We set our own rates, we create our own working conditions — all the things that unions typically negotiate for, we determine for ourselves.”

The 2013 law that allowed these union “elections” is up for repeal this session. A repeal should pass in the House, though support in the Senate is in doubt. A repeal would free child-care providers to stop listening for a knock at the door from AFSCME.

Kim Crockett

March 9, 2016