Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order on Tuesday calling for an election within 60 days to determine if in-home day-care providers want union representation. The state’s roughly 11,000 licensed child-care workers will vote on whether they wish to be represented by the SEIU Kids First Local 284 and AFSCME Council 5.
The election will be conducted through mail balloting and overseen by the Bureau of Mediation Services. Only licensed providers who receive state subsidies for low-income care will be eligible to participate. If a majority of voters indicate a preference for union representation the bargaining units will be recognized. AFSCME and SEIU will be responsible for any costs associated with the election.
Republican legislative leaders immediately indicated that they will challenge Dayton’s authority to order such an election in court. They argue that the unilateral move is beyond the scope of his executive powers. “We think it’s surprising,” said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, of Dellwood. “We are wondering where this is coming from. As legislators we don’t hear a lot from folks who are asking for this. I have not heard a single request for this from folks in my district.”
Union leaders wrote to Dayton last week asking for an election. They claim to have collected cards indicating support for union representation from more than half of the state’s licensed child-care providers. “While a majority of providers have signed authorizations in the areas listed above, some people have disputed that fact,” wrote AFSCME Council 5 executive director Eliot Seide and SEIU Kids First Local 284 executive director Carol Nieters. “To resolve the controversy, we feel the best way to determine majority support is to have the providers vote in each of the respective areas on whether they wish to be represented by their unions. ”
If child-care providers opt for collective bargaining, the unions would operate differently from other labor organizations. That’s because the unions would not be authorized to negotiate wages for child-care workers. Instead the unions argue that they would provide leverage to workers in negotiating higher state subsidies, quality standards, training opportunities and other benefits.
Opponents of the unionization effort argue that it’s simply an attempt to swell the ranks of SEIU and AFSCME, which provided key support to Dayton in last year’s gubernatorial contest.