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Child care providers allowed to join unions

Union supporters celebrated Monday after the House voted 68-66 to allow some child care providers and personal care attendants to join unions.

Five Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure: Representatives Tim Faust of Hinckley, Jay McNamar of Elbow Lake, Tina Liebling of Rochester, Kim Norton of Rochester and Gene Pelowski of Winona.

Pro-union child care providers and care attendants were happy, saying they will do better because unions will be able to get more state funds for them, as well as better rules.

"My work helps the state save countless dollars that would be spent on a long-term care institution if I wasn't there to work with my grandson and keep him living independently," Vicki Dewald of Detroit Lakes said. "By forming a union we can improve conditions for workers, which will keep good PCAs and improve the quality of care clients receive."

The bill, expected to be signed into law, will give providers a more stable state funding source, Representative Carly Melin said, after years of budget cuts.

"We are not forming a union here today, we are authorizing people the right to vote," the Hibbing Democrat said.

Union opponents say the bill is unconstitutional and expect to challenge it in court, probably within days.

Representative Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, told about her years as a child care provider, a business she started in part so she could care for her children.

"I ask you to search your hearts today," she told her colleagues before the vote.

"This bill places unions and government between child care providers and their clients," said Representative Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.