Who would be unionized?
If the majority of ballots cast in the election are yes votes, all family childcare providers (licensed and unlicensed) who accept childcare Assistance Program (CCAP) payments for any children in their care would be exclusively represented by ASFCME. They would then be forced to pay AFSCME through union dues or "fair share" fees, no matter if or how they voted. Please note that this law does NOT involve child care centers, but family child care providers, all of whom work in their homes.
Wait! This law unionizes small business owners?
Yes. We are all independent, self-employed, small business owners. We set our own rates, hours, policies, vacation days, sick days, working conditions, etc. We choose which families to accept. Many providers have employees, assistants, and hire independent contractors who teach music, gymnastics, etc. What happens if our employees want to unionize? What makes us different than a grocery store that takes food stamps, landlords who accept Section 8 tenants, an independent construction worker who works on a government project, or chiropractors, doctors, or dentists who accept government health care?
Is it legal to unionize small business owners and employers?
No. It violates the U.S. Constitution and national labor law (NLRA). Employers are not allowed to unionize as it violates federal labor and anti-trust laws. This new law also says that family childcare providers who accept families on assistance will be public employees for the purpose of unionization. People cannot be both independent business owners and state employees.The rights of individuals should not be trampled on simply because a few (or even a majority) want something.
Isn’t it voluntary to join the union?
Union membership is voluntary; however, union representation and payment of "fair share" fees are not voluntary. Minnesota is a “Fair Share” state, so providers who do not want to join the union will have to pay "fair share" fees (typically 85% of regular dues), which will be deducted from CCAP payments before being sent to the provider. Providers will be forced to pay the union through membership dues or fair share fees; they will NOT have a choice. AFSCME wants to negotiate on issues besides CCAP rates, such as trainings, licensing regulations, grievance procedures, etc. Every licensed family childcare provider would be impacted by any of these changes, regardless of whether they want them.
How much will I have to pay?
Dues will not be determined until after a contract is negotiated. Minimum dues are $25/month, $300/year. Family childcare providers in Illinois pay up to $900/year and providers in New York pay $400 - $700/year, yet their subsidy rates have not increased. Most of the monthly amount goes to the international and national union, leaving little to be used in Minnesota.
Why not allow a vote?
Family childcare providers already have the choice to join the union now. After 8 years of having the option to join, approximately 100 family childcare providers have done so. The vote would exclude 50% of licensed family childcare providers, but it would give a vote to 75% of unlicensed family childcare providers who are no longer providing care. Childcare union elections in other states have typically been underpublicized, voter turnout has been low, and unlicensed providers are purposefully included to outnumber licensed providers.
Would Unlicensed providers be unionized with Licensed providers?
Yes. This law includes unlicensed family childcare providers, most of whom care for family members, with licensed family childcare providers who are required to follow regulations to ensure children's safety and optimal development. They are two distinct groups, though both groups love children. Unlicensed providers outnumber licensed providers in this proposed bargaining unit, giving them the majority in a vote and negotiations that will affect every licensed family childcare provider.
Will childcare unionization increase quality?
It has not been shown to increase quality in other states, and including licensed professionals with unlicensed providers won't increase quality. Family childcare providers set their own standards of quality as business owners and don't need a union to define quality. Quality improvement grants will be tied to unionization because providers can't accept a grant unless they're willing to care for a child on assistance. We'll have to choose between refusing a grant to improve our program or paying the union if we accept a child on assistance.
Will this give family childcare providers a voice?
Unionization does not offer family childcare providers anything we cannot already do ourselves. We already have a voice and a seat at the table, working with licensors, DHS, and legislators to ensure our questions and concerns are addressed. We already have state, city, and county childcare associations that work solely for licensed family childcare providers and the families we serve. Membership is voluntary and normally only $35 per year. Benefits include free monthly trainings, conferences, resources, and networking opportunities. Unfortunately, unionization will exclude these associations from the negotiations with the state.
AFSCME also represents many county and state licensing
employees; how can the union address providers' grievances
if they are on both sides of the table?
AFSCME also represents many county and state licensing employees; how can the union address providers' grievances if they are on both sides of the table?
Do other states have childcare unions?
16 states have unionized family childcare providers.
7 states have repealed statues/executive orders or
canceled the union contracts, leaving only 9 unionized states.
Only 6 of those states have active union contracts. Only 4 out of
the remaining states have limited unionization to providers who
accept subsidies; the rest expanded to include all family childcare
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What about health insurance?
In only 3 states have the unions negotiated health care coverage for a small percentage of providers, but NOT their families. There are strict eligibility requirements, such as being income-eligible, unqualified for public health care, caring for a child on assistance for at least 180 calendar days, and/or having at least 1 (4 in Washington) children on assistance. The unions may claim that their members have access to group health insurance rates, but we have yet to see proof.
Will the union be able to increase the subsidy rates?
Most states with childcare unions have not increased the subsidy rate. Legislators already have the power to change the subsidy rate if they deem it necessary. This benefits families, not providers. Childcare providers, including those who care for children on the subsidy program, determine their business rate. If the family’s subsidy amount does not cover the provider’s full rate, the provider can choose to charge the parents the difference, or assume the loss. It's part of being a business owner.
How do family childcare providers feel about this?
Family childcare providers have overwhelmingly said that they are against childcare unionization for the past 8 years, yet AFSCME, Governor Dayton, and most legislators have not listened to us. Every day, we make positive differences in the lives of Minnesota’s families, all without a union. We have been loving and working with children without a union and will continue to give children the best possible care without a union.