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Despite SCOTUS, MN Childcare Workers Say They ‘Deserve Union’

PHOTO: Monday's Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn may stop some independent care providers from joining public-sector unions that automatically include employees in paying dues and enjoying contract benefits. Photo by Franz Jantzen / U.S. Supreme Court.
PHOTO: Monday's Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn may stop some independent care providers from joining public-sector unions that automatically include employees in paying dues and enjoying contract benefits. Photo by Franz Jantzen / U.S. Supreme Court.
July 3, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Some of those affected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision on union dues for child and home care workers say it is based on the myth that their labor is somehow less deserving than other types of employment.

This week's decision in the Harris v. Quinn case will likely stop some independent providers from joining public-sector unions that automatically include employees in paying dues and enjoying contract benefits. Long-time Mounds View child care provider Clarissa Johnston says people have called her a "babysitter" for years, and that's part of the problem.

"People don't realize how much we count on this to pay our mortgage," says Johnston. "But unfortunately, if it's viewed as a service of the heart, we are devalued."

In the Harris case, an anti-union group argued some Illinois caregivers should not have to automatically pay union dues. The decision was announced Monday.

Under current "agency shop" rules, a public-sector union has to cover everyone in the workplace under its contract - but also gets to automatically collect the dues needed to keep that contract in place. The court ruled that should not apply to independent providers. But Johnston says without what are known as "fair share dues," some may try to get the benefits without paying their part. She says she wants all of her peers in Minnesota to be part of a union, because in her view, they need it.

"Providers get paid less, and they have less resources," says Johnston. "Some organizations advocate for child care providers, right? But we need the power of negotiation."

In Minnesota, child care providers still have the right to vote on a union and to collectively bargain with the state. She says the union will help the providers with training and things such as group life insurance. As Johnston puts it, a union could raise the bar for her profession. She says the decision is a setback, but won't stop efforts to organize.

"How do I put this?" she says. "We're strong business women. We work with what we have. And we make lemonade if we're handed lemons."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - MN