After years of fighting the battle against childcare unionization, the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) sent ballots to independent childcare providers on Monday—triggering an election to unionize.
There are a number of serious questions regarding the methods in which BMS and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are carrying out the election.
First, BMS only mailed ballots to providers who received state money from the childcare assistance program, or CCAP, in December of 2015. The clear intent of the legislation called for providers who had an active CCAP registration in the twelve months prior to the election.
By doing this, DHS and BMS have shrunk the list of eligible voters by as much as 80%.
Second, compared to the timeline for the August 2014 PCA union election, the CCAP provider election schedule is a full two weeks shorter with no explanation given for the abbreviated timeline. Only 22% of eligible PCAs participated in that election, and the timeline in this election will similarly discourage participation.
The decision to unionize has far reaching implications for Minnesota’s childcare industry with a number of misconceptions being spread by interest groups.
Here are the facts:
If child care providers are unionized, representation by the union is no longer voluntary
With union representation comes union dues. The likely dollar amount for Minnesota child care providers is not known at this point. However, the fees in other states have ranged from $300-$900 per year.
The vote will be determined based on the majority of ballots received, not based on the number of providers eligible to vote. If only 100 providers return ballots and 51 vote in favor of unionization, all providers caring for CCAP children will be unionized.
Childcare providers who do not currently accept CCAP are not eligible to vote in the union election but the results of this election will impact all providers in Minnesota.
Electing to form a union is a decision that is not easily reversed. Providers are forbidden from reconsidering for one year once a union is formed. If providers determine that the union is not in their best interests, state law requires numerous steps and provides a very narrow window to consider decertification of the exclusive representative.
Providers should not be put in the position of having to choose between caring for children of low-income families and joining a union. Childcare providers already operate on narrow profit margins and I am concerned that adding several hundred dollars in union dues each year may compromise their ability to run a successful business while providing care for low-income children.
I hope providers will spread the word and make sure this election is not decided by just a small handful of votes. There have already been reports of BMS “whiting out” return addresses on ballots and I urge anyone who notices irregularities or efforts to spread misinformation about the unionization effort to contact my office.