A union thumping

The Center helps child-care providers remain union-free.

With an assist from the American Experiment, Minnesota’s in-home child-care providers defeated an 11-year attempt by AFSCME to add child-care providers to the list of dues-paying members. In doing so, the Center stopped a terrible precedent: Gov. Dayton’s campaign to extend “state employee” status to business owners in the private sector.

The 2 to 1 margin of victory, announced on March 1st, stunned even the most optimistic child-care providers monitoring the election. AFSCME officials said they would end efforts to organize Minnesota’s in-home child care business owners before the authorizing legislation sunsets next year.

Jennifer Parrish, a provider and leader of the Coalition of Union Free Providers, said “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. Child-care providers want nothing to do with AFSCME.”

Kim Crockett called the union defeat “a moral victory and huge encouragement for women business owners who have been harassed for more than a decade.” Crockett, Vice President and senior policy fellow at CAE, has helped coalesce opposition to the union’s efforts since 2011 through writing, testimony and encouraging child-care business owners. Crockett’s efforts got a big boost when Tom Steward, an old friend and all in this fight, joined the Center in February as communications director.

In 2015, Crockett launched the Employee Freedom Project to reduce the undue influence of public employee unions and provide greater freedom of choice to Minnesota’s public employees.

The project also focuses on stopping the expansion of public unions into the private sector, like in-home child care and personal care. The Center is allied with Americans for Lawful Unionism (ALU), a 501(c)(3) that was formed to challenge the 2013 legislation that redefines who is a “public employee” for purposes of collective bargaining with the state. ALU conducts litigation, while the Center focuses on research and educational outreach.

“When the election was announced, we had to help our friends,” Crockett said. “So we figured out a cost-effective way to join the battle. It was better to defeat AFSCME at the ballot box before they formed a union than to try to decertify the union or run an opt-out campaign later,” she said.

Here is how they won so decisively. According to Crockett, “The childcare providers already had an amazing ground-game, after years of organizing. The Center backed them up with a ‘VOTE NO’ postcard and social media campaign.”

Then the Center unleashed a state-wide campaign to reach providers, affected parents and lawmakers. Crockett published widely circulated commentaries in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, while Steward wrote an op/ed that appeared in the Duluth News Tribune, The Fargo Forum, and the Grand Forks Herald.

Then came the day of the vote. “Tom and I got to watch the ballot count with key child-care leaders and their lawyer, Doug Seaton. We were all very calm inside. After the count ended, a bunch of us went outside and whooped it up,” Crockett said.

A happy Hollee Saville, provider and leader of Minnesota Family Childcare, pointed to the future, “We will always celebrate this victory. But an unconstitutional law is still on the books and providers in other states face forced unionization. We are extremely grateful but the fight is far from over.”