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UPDATE: Day Care Providers Rally as Minnesota Senate Approves Unionization Bill

A contingent of day care providers and families with children who use that care protested against Senate File 778. But the DFL-controlled Senate approved the measure with a narrow, 35-32 vote after 17 hours of debate.

UPDATE (9:40 a.m., Wednesday, May 15): It took 17 hours of debate and more than a little arm-twisting from bill author Sen. Sandy Pappas, but the bill allowing day care providers to unionize in Minnesota passed the State Senate early Wedneday by the narrowest of margins.

The DFL, which has a nine-member majority in the Senate, had a few members vote "no" on the unionization bill, approving it with a 35-32 vote.

Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, Greg Clausen of Apple Valley, Bev Scalze of Little Canada and Melisa Franzen of Edina broke ranks with the DFL and voted against the measure.

The bill will now move to the House floor, where it will most likely replace a similar bill, H.F. 905, before it could move to Gov. Mark Dayton's desk.

According to Sen. Bonoff's office, emails and calls in opposition to the bill greatly outnumbered those in favor. Many daycare providers in the area are vocal about not wanting this bill to pass.  

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Original story: More than a year after a Ramsey County Court judge threw out an executive order from Gov. Mark Dayton allowing state unions to recruit daycare providers, the Minnesota Senate is debating the Family Child Care Providers Representation Act, which would make that order state law. 

That's a motion meeting heavy resistence from local, in-home care providers who believe their independent day care facilities shouldn't be wrapped in with home health care workers, a group S.F. 778 is targeting

The bill, which is authored by the Democrat-Farm-Labor Party's President of the Senate, Sen. Sandy Pappas, narrowly escaped the Senate Finance Committee last week. It was deadlocked with an 11-11 vote early last week until a re-vote on May 8 passed by a 12-10 margin. Minnetonka DFLer Sen. Teri Bonoff was the lone member who switched, pushing the vote to the Senate floor today. 

"It's completely a piece of unnecessary legislation," said St. Michael care provider Hollee Saville. "In-home day care centers are small businesses. They're not employees of the state. Many providers have their own employees. And these are costs that will be handed off to families that can't afford any more." 

But the bill does offer an opportunity for in-home care workers to unionize as well, something Pat Winick of Minneapolis told the Senate Finance Committee she could use to ensure her workers receive a "fair wage for the services they provide." 

Winick, who organizes for Brain Injury Alliance, based in Minneapolis, said S.F. 778 strengthens the self-direction model. 

"Right now workers have no voice in how budgets are set. I look forward to partnering with organized workers fin advocating for more access and stable funding for self-directed services."

Advocate Karen Urman of Mounds View said 2011 state-enacted cuts rolled back her salary by 20 percent. She works as a PCA, including managing the case for her own son, Ziggy Norberg. 

Still, some in-home child care providers believe 778 is simply too broad, and challenges the state constitution. 

"Everything about this screams unfairness and back-door deals," Seville said, pointing to the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota group, which has put its weight heavily behind the bill. "We already have several organizations at the county and state level to lobby for an represent our interests for free. Some are $35 per year. Not the $300 per year or $900 per year the SEIU in Illinois charges." 

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