Over strenuous objections from Republicans, the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow daycare workers and personal care assistants (PCAs) to unionize.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, passed on an 8-6 party-line vote.
The proposal, which is a priority for public employee unions, would allow licensed and unlicensed workers who receive state subsidies to proceed with a vote to join a union. In the case of daycare workers, there are roughly 6,000 licensed and 6,000 unlicensed child care workers. PCA workers experience significant turnover, but their number is generally pegged between 12,000 and 13,000 people.
Nelson told the committee that the bill wouldn’t force the workers to unionize, but would allow them to decide for themselves.
“The key word here is try [to unionize],” Nelson said.
Republicans on the committees were angered that they weren’t allowed more time for debate. They offered several amendments that were voted down on party-line votes. Upset that she hadn’t been able to raise questions beyond the amendments, Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, took the unusual step of moving to adjourn the committee, but to no avail.
“To me, what this looks like is a union power grab,” Peppin said.
Daycare unionization has traveled a rocky path at the Legislature. In 2011 Gov. Mark Dayton attempted through executive order to let daycare workers vote to unionize when Republicans controlled the Legislature. His order was struck down by a Ramsey County District Court ruling that Dayton had overstepped the legislative process. Now that DFLers control both houses of the Legislature, the bill has advanced through several committees in both chambers.
In the Senate, daycare workers and PCA workers earlier in the session were lumped together in the same bill. Nelson recently amended the two sets of workers into a single House bill to conform with the Senate measure. While the bill is advancing, concerns among DFLers have arisen, particularly in the Senate. In both the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Policy Committee and the Judiciary Committee, the bill passed without recommendation. And questions have arisen about the impact that unionization might have on families’ future access to childcare if the union bargains for increased rates for child care subsidies, as seems likely.
Nelson’s bill has one more stop on Thursday, in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.