Archived Story

Editorial: Question of child care union still looms at Capitol

Published 9:19am Monday, April 23, 2012


Few issues so quickly and starkly reveal partisan divides in St. Paul more than those involving unions.

That proved true again April 6 when a judge in Ramsey County ruled Gov. Mark Dayton exceeded his authority in trying to order a unionization vote among in-home child care providers who participate in state-subsidized programs.

Political rhetoric from special interests on both sides of the aisle (but, to his credit, not Dayton’s office) came fast and furious.

Now that it’s died down a bit, and especially as Dayton ponders appealing the decision, it’s worth revisiting the key question in this issue: How does forming a union help children?

As we did last fall, this board poses the question again with sincerity and respect. In-home providers fulfill a valuable role for countless Minnesota families. So how will forming a union yield better care of those children?

One reason we ask again is the lack of a solid answer from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, the two entities pushing for it.

Their main selling points seem focused on benefiting providers through more lobbying of government, whether that’s license issues, potential benefits or subsidy rates. Yes, those are important to providers, but what are the benefits for kids in their care?

And what about their parents (read consumers) who, thanks to free markets, now have varied choices for hours, rates and conditions? Could this unionization limit such choices for consumers? That’s hard to tell considering the plan only involves votes from about 4,300 of 11,000 in-home providers.

It’s important to clearly answer those kinds of questions now. They could impact Dayton’s decision on whether to appeal. Plus, the ruling reiterates a call for such a vote must come from the Legislature. Sooner or later, the Legislature may issue that call.

For starters, it should be much later. There are many pressing issues that state leaders need to resolve. This is not among them. Still, given the politics the issue involves, it would be good to get clear answers now.

Once the debate heats up again, history shows political rhetoric — not clarity — will dominate.

— St. Cloud Times, April 16