House passes daycare union bill

MARSHALL – After two days and 10 hours of debate, the Minnesota House on Monday afternoon passed a bill to allow home daycare providers and personal care attendants to unionize.

The legislation was as widely supported by Democrats in St. Paul as it was frowned upon by Republicans.

“I actually thought they wouldn’t have the votes, and it’s unfortunate in this process, this late in the game, they didn’t accept some of the amendments we put forward,” said District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent. “There are people from my district extremely worked up about this and very worried about their future ability to operate their small business.”

The final vote was 68-66 and was proceeded by plenty of spirited debate. A handful of Democrats voted no along with all the House Republicans, who waged an intense floor fight against the daycare unionization drive. The issue drew demonstrators to the Capitol from both sides of the issue.

“They (DFL) didn’t have any votes to spare, and a couple of their caucus members voted no, which to me indicates there was some serious opposition to the effort within the DFL caucus,” said District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Nelson Township. “In calls and emails from my district, there was just no support for this effort. This doesn’t quite pass the smell test for me.”

The Senate, after much debate, passed the bill last week, so its final stop is Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. Dayton is likely to sign it.

The measure is part of an effort by service worker unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – to organize personal care workers and sets up possible unionization votes among child-care providers who get state subsidies, and separately among care attendants to the elderly and disabled.

Unions would become a reality if 30 percent of providers or attendants vote on unionizing. A 50 percent-plus one vote would then be needed to form a union.

Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said the legislation is bad for families and small business owners all across Minnesota, and “good for union bottom lines.”

“It’s poor policy to stick politics between Minnesota’s working families and the people who provide care for their children,” he said. “It puts low-income families in trouble because providers will stop accepting C-CAP children in order to stay out of the union. In greater Minnesota, that’s really not going to work well.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.