Weather Forecast


Record Senate debate ends with unionization approval

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators set a modern-day record for debating a single bill Tuesday night and Wednesday morning before voting to give childcare providers and personal care attendants the right to unionize.

The bill passed 35-32 a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday, concluding 17 hours of constant debate.

"It just gives this group of workers, that don't have the right to have a vote, an opportunity to decide if they can form a union and form a bargaining unit so that they can bargain for some of the things that my union card has provided for me," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

The bill would allow for an election among providers if unions meet certain thresholds of support. If childcare providers and personal care attendants decided to join unions, they could negotiate with the state and would have to pay union dues.

The unions would negotiate state payment levels.

Republicans argued that the providers are private businesses that do not need to be unionized, and should not be unionized.

Four Democratic senators joined Republicans in voting against the bill.

"Union special interests were listened to over moms today," said Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake. "This bill will make childcare more expensive for families and taxpayers."

Republicans presented dozens of amendments in an attempt to water down the measure.

"Today, the DFL members of the Minnesota Senate gave childcare providers the right to vote for a union," Alexandria childcare provider Lynn Barten said. "Everyone wins when we come together and work together to improve our lives and profession."

Childcare provider Marilyn Geller of Bemidji said the vote showed that Democratic senators "acknowledged that we are smart women who deserve the right to vote to join a union."

"With a union, providers will be able to negotiate with the state for better reimbursement rates, which will keep costs down for providers and parents. It's simple, providers can't work for less and parents can't pay more," Geller said.

Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said the Democratic-Farmer-Labor argument does not make sense because if unions negotiate a certain state subsidy for childcare workers and personal care attendants, the higher pay is not automatic. The state Legislature still would need to appropriate the money.

The House could debate the union bill Saturday.

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.