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Aside from collective bargaining rights on rate payments, Munt argued unionization would allow providers to have a more input into the rules which govern their profession.

AFSCME continues moving on daycare union signature drive

Rep. Mike Nelson and Sen. Sandra Pappas carried the unionization bill through a pair of filibusters. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis dismissed an appeal for an injunction against a new law allowing home daycare workers to hold a union election. It was the second rejection issued by Davis, who had already dismissed the case in late July, ruling that the plaintiffs could not claim to have been damaged by a law that had not yet gone into effect.

In his order denying the injunction request, Davis wrote that the “likelihood of irreparable injury to Plaintiffs is speculative and remote.” The plaintiffs in the case, a group of anti-union daycare providers, have pledged to appeal the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Davis’ refusal to issue an injunction also allows for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to continue collecting the signatures required to force a unionization election. AFSCME, which has also filed several briefs in defense of the controversial unionization law, would inherit the state’s daycare providers as union members if the election is successful.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Munt said AFSCME has been reaching out to providers since the end of the legislative session. The union bill, which also included a provision to allow unaffiliated personal care assistants (PCAs) to form unions through the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), passed the House by a 68-66 vote with just hours remaining in the session. The controversial bill was subject to Republican filibusters in both the House and Senate, and several DFL lawmakers opposed its passage.

Under the terms of the bill, the unions would need to collect 500 signatures before gaining access to a list of daycare or personal care providers. That aspect is less essential to AFSCME, Munt said, because a public list of daycare providers who accept Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) clients is already available. Munt declined to say whether AFSCME was approaching or had surpassed the 500-signature threshold. Following that first benchmark, the union will need to garner signatures from 30 percent of the state’s roughly 12,700 daycare operators, at which point an up-or-down unionization election could be held.

To this point, AFSCME has been making its case by pounding the pavement and interacting with operators in person, rather than sending out literature or making phone calls.

“For us it’s about face-to-face conversations with people,” Munt said. “We aren’t just trying to get cards signed. We’re trying to build a union of people who want to lift their profession.”

According to Munt, the benefits of unionization are particularly resonant with the state’s unlicensed providers, who make up about half of the total workforce. Those daycare operators, she said, had recently endured steep cut in aid payments enacted by the state Legislature, which chose to pass a much lesser cut for licensed providers.

Aside from collective bargaining rights on rate payments set by the state, Munt argued unionization would allow providers to have more input into the rules governing their profession.

“The state sets the rates by which they’re paid, and sets the rules by which they conduct their business,” she said. “There’s a six-inch thick rule book which childcare providers must abide by, or lose their license, and providers want to have a voice in that.”

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