by Pat Garofalo
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune
Last week in the waning hours of the 2013 session, with the budget still unfinished, Democrats were pushing through one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen in my time at the state Legislature.
The bill, which passed by just one vote in spite of strong bipartisan opposition, aims to unionize child care providers and personal care attendants.
If the unionization effort is successful, it will have far reaching impacts; providers will see their costs increased and will be forced in to a union they do not want, and parents will pay more and have fewer providers to pick from for the care of their children.
Unlike a normal union, where employees form a union in order to collectively bargain with their employer, the proposed union for child care providers and personal care attendants would take the unprecedented step of unionizing child care providers, nearly all of which are independent small business owners.
The union would extract more than $8 million in dues from providers around the state who accept child care assistance subsidies from the state. These subsidies are intended for low-income parents who otherwise could not afford child care for their children while they work during the day.
Providers who don’t wish to see their costs increased would be forced to either pay “fair share” dues to the union, about 85 percent of the normal dues, or stop accepting children who rely on child care assistance program subsidies.
Similar efforts to unionize child care providers in other states have resulted in higher costs for providers and parents with zero increase in the subsidy rate that Democrats claim will be improved with the union in place.
Child care is expensive. As a parent, I’m all too familiar with how costly it is, and how difficult a decision it is for a parent when looking at who to trust to care for their child. Reducing the number of providers for low-income families, and increasing costs on providers and parents alike is flat out wrong.
Over 80 percent of providers in a recent survey stated that they opposed this unwanted and unnecessary unionization effort. Editorial boards across Minnesota spoke out against the bill including the two largest papers in the state. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and former union officials publicly opposed it as well.
The reason for the widespread opposition was that Minnesotans recognized this legislation for exactly what it was: a payback to special interest allies who spent millions to elect Democrats to the Legislature.
And Minnesota is already seeing the consequences of this special interest payoff; a lawsuit was filed by a group of child care providers, the same group who successfully blocked Gov. Mark Dayton’s executive order to hold a unionization election that was eventually ruled to be illegal. This will mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs for the state of Minnesota, all at the expense of you, the hardworking taxpayer.
Democrats have made it clear they are more beholden to their union bosses than they are to families around Minnesota. Raising the cost of child care, and imposing a union on providers who don’t want it is hardly what Minnesotans expect in a “better Minnesota.” Minnesota deserves better than this, and I hope we will see better judgment exercised by Democrats in the next session.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, represents District 58B, which includes the city of Farmington and townships to the southeast. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.