House approves disputed unionization bill with no votes to spare

MinnPost photo by James Nord
Sen. Sandy Pappas, the lead Senate author of the child-care unionization bill, reacts to House passage of the bill.

An extremely controversial measure that would allow unions to attempt to organize child-care workers and personal-care attendants passed the state House on Monday after nearly 12 hours of debate, wrapping up the most controversial issue of the waning legislative session.

The tight House vote — 68 to 66 —showed just how difficult it was for Democrats to successfully carry the union-backed legislation. Five DFL representatives did not support the bill: Tim Faust, Tina Liebling, Jay McNamar, Kim Norton and Gene Pelowski.

The Senate passed the same provisions last week despite Republicans staging a marathon 17-hour filibuster.

The stop-and-start House debate began early Sunday morning in the midst of a last-minute rush to pass the Democrats’ $38 billion budget. DFL leadership, in an effort to combat Republican efforts to filibuster the bill, took it up in spurts when omnibus budget bills weren’t available for consideration.

The Monday afternoon vote came after a more-than-10-hour deliberation that gave sides an opportunity to hammer away at the other.

Union supporters from AFSCME and SEIU erupted into cheers and applause from the gallery after the vote, throwing the House chamber into disarray.

House Speaker Paul Thissen attempted to quiet the enthusiastic supporters as angry Republicans took cell phone video of them celebrating.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, a Republican from Farmington, angrily grabbed his desk microphone and snarled at Thissen: “Let them applaud. They own the place!”

But shortly before that, such anti-unionization stalwarts as Republican Reps. Mary Franson, Jerry Hertaus and Steve Drazkowski urged opposition demonstrators to yell loudly against the bill as they one by one walked into the House chamber.

Garofalo’s passionate objection showcases the deeply partisan divide over the bill.

Republicans characterized the measure as DFL payback to their union supporters for helping them win control of the Legislature in the 2012 elections. They also criticized the bill as something child-care providers and others affected don’t want.

“What we saw happen today was a huge step backwards for low-income families who rely on child-care assistance from the government to help pay for their child-care needs,” GOP Rep. Tara Mack said shortly after the vote, criticizing Democrats for not accepting any Republican amendments.

tara mack
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Rep. Tara Mack objected that the bill seemed to favor the interests of unions over those of small-business owners.

“We’re not anti union,” she added. “Our problem with this bill is that it really stacked the cards in union favor. It’s not a fairly written bill in the interest of small-business owners, so what we’re going to see as a result of this is child-care providers are going to have the option of join the union or stop taking children who have subsidized care.”

But Democrats pushed back against Republicans’ claims, calling them alarmists who didn’t understand the true intent of the legislation, which allows providers and PCAs to decides if they want a unionize.

“I think the rest of the state’s going to go on with their business. The sky’s not going to fall because a few thousand workers get to actually decide about their future and their destiny,” Sen. Sandy Pappas, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, told reporters after the House vote.

Afterward, Pappas and Rep. Michael Nelson, who also sponsored the bill, celebrated with screaming supporters outside of the House. The two lawmakers hugged representatives from AFSCME and SEIU, who had camped out at the Capitol for days as the lower-chamber lawmakers debated the measure in fits and starts.

pappas nelson
MinnPost photo by James Nord
Sen. Pappas and Rep. Michael Nelson, the House sponsor, embrace after the House vote.

“We just got out of their way,” a smiling Pappas said. “That’s what we did. The state should not have been in their way, and that was the whole point of our legislation.”

Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to sign the measure, but supporters noted that the real challenge for advocates — preparing for and winning the union election — is still looming.

“The work just begins now,” Nelson said.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/20/2013 - 06:42 pm.

    That’s too bad.

    I can’t wait to see how the union works in this menage a trois.

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/20/2013 - 06:45 pm.

    A Colt 45 At My Noggin

    If I had to choose one or the other, I’d rather SEIU wriite the legislation and own the House, rather than ALEC.

  3. Submitted by Matthew Zabka on 05/20/2013 - 08:38 pm.

    Bought and paid for

    This is really too bad. Daycare workers weren’t pushing for this, rather the unions pushed. Now daycare providers must chose either to raise rates or decrease care in order to pay their ‘fair share’ to the union bosses, who will then pay money to the DFL. I’ve never seen a more blatant quid pro quo in politics.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/21/2013 - 06:38 am.

      My Memory Is Good But It’s Short

      Perhaps you don’t recall the efforts of the Koch brothers (through ALEC and Americans For Prosperity) in pushing anti-worker legislation and candidates. Their funding of both groups resulted in a quid pro quo when Governor Walker and the GOP legislature took virtually all bargaining power away from public employees.

      What you call “union bosses” are democratically elected by secret ballot, unlike the real bosses, who employees have no say over. I am surprised Minn Post continues to allow the use of this pejorative.

      Dues are set by majority vote in a similar secret ballot.

      Those who daycare providers opposed to union membership can vote against it, and are in no way compelled to accept children who receive a subsidy from the tax payers of Minnesota.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/20/2013 - 09:30 pm.

    Perhaps After Rep. Franson Loses Her Next Election

    In the district where I live, she can find herself a job as a home health care assistant (although I’m not sure she has the proper temperament to make a living caring about, or for, others),…

    and experience first hand how wonderful is the compensation such people receive for their work.

    But then again, the deep seated hatred and phobia she harbors toward unions and union workers,…

    (in other words, ANY worker who has a desire to receive decent pay and benefits with reasonable protections against arbitrary, self-serving decisions on the part of management),…

    will probably keep her employed in a “conservative” “think” tank or the MN Chamber of Commerce even long after all her fellow citizens who work in the many local manufacturing firms, here, in her home district,…

    and the owners and managers of those companies,…

    finally figure out that she is definitely NOT on their side,…

    but only on the side of our state’s wealthiest 1%ers,…

    protecting them and their off shore tax havens even though that means the people and businesses in her district pay far more taxes than they should have to pay.

  5. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 05/20/2013 - 11:49 pm.

    A Win for Small Business, Too

    There should be nothing controversial when workers who are among the poorest paid organize to win better pay and working conditions. Child-care workers do some of the most important work there is, and they are paid and respected much less than they deserve to be.

    Small businesses will benefit when low-income people are paid more money. Why? Because when the poorest people get a raise, they spend it locally, and this benefits businesses of all sizes. Distributing money to people who will actually spend it in their own neighborhoods makes much better economic sense than giving tax breaks to rich folks who will only squirrel them away in overseas investments.

    This was a fairer, stronger, and happier nation when more of us were unionized. And we were smarter when we understood that money comes from wealth, not the reverse; and that wealth, which consists of real goods and services, comes from work, not from investments. If no work was done, then there would be nothing to invest in. And work is accomplished: with raw materials, carefully stewarded; with education, generously provided; with technology, thoughtfully developed and applied; and with workers, respected and decently paid. If we invest in all these things, in both private and public ways, we will always have wealth. If we fail to invest in these things in order to save mere money, we’ll soon discover just how worthless money really is.

    To everyone who fought hard to pass this bill, I offer my sincere thanks. You have done the right thing.

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/21/2013 - 08:21 am.

      Hey, Eric….

      you said, “There should be nothing controversial when workers who are among the poorest paid organize to win better pay and working conditions. Child-care workers do some of the most important work there is, and they are paid and respected much less than they deserve to be.”

      My ex runs a thriving daycare business and does very well. She knows many other providers in the same boat. They have excellent accountants, huge tax advantages, are able to set their own hours and rates and have many other advantages. It is hard work and I couldn’t do it. But a good daycare provider is loved by her parents, keeps the daycare full by referrals from previous clients. It is a true small business and she is well compensated with a decent middle class income. I can’t believe that any of the successful businesswomen she knows will want to join this union.

      If you are talking about poorest paid workers I’d agree that home health care workers fit that bill. It is crummy, unfulfilling work for unskilled people. You can probably earn more as a waiter. I can see a union helping those people but the whole focus of this debate has been on the daycare owners. These are two groups with completely different needs.

      • Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 05/21/2013 - 11:13 am.

        The Union Option Threatens No One

        Undoubtedly, there are some workers who are paid more poorly and respected less than daycare providers. Migrant farm workers come to mind. But this is not an argument against unionization generally. Unionize the daycare workers, and unionize the farm workers, too. And the home health care workers, while we’re at it. Where is it written that unionizing in one place means we can’t unionize others? I’m sorry if, by arguing that daycare providers deserve to be represented by a union, I gave the impression that I consider all other workers to be unworthy of this advantage. I meant no such thing.

        And my original point still stands. In my previous posting, I argued that unionization does not generally pose a threat to anybody’s small business. This includes the small business of your ex, who is still perfectly free either to become a union shop or to run a non-union shop in competition with union shops.

  6. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/21/2013 - 08:10 am.

    so now the state subsidizes the union not the daycare?

    So on a level playing field the union would have no chance because what they are offering, to “advocate” for the daycare providers, isn’t worth the dues. But the real issue, at least as I’m understanding it, is that if you aren’t in the union you can receive subsidies for low income kids? So this is about rewarding people for joining the union. I don’t see the legal or moral basis to deny subsidies to nonunion daycare providers. Isn’t it a case now that any provider can receive these subsidies?

    I would assume that quality providers that have full daycares and their choices of clients will have no reason to join the union. That will close off the best daycares to the poorer parents. The daycare providers that can’t provide the best services and can’t keep their daycares full will join the union. That will guarantee that five years from now their will be two tiers of home daycare. That way the subsidized parents will all tend to congregate in the limited, poorer quality, daycares and middle class parents will avoid those places and seek out nonunion daycares because common sense will tell them there is better care there.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/21/2013 - 02:03 pm.

      Over the last two weeks on the news, I have

      Heard daycare providers who opposed this bill state over and over that they would not accept children covered by the state subsidy. These providers said that they could make it financially if they accepted those children. So it would appear that there already is a two tier daycare system – one for parents wealthy enough not to need the state subsidy and one for parents who don’t have the necessary income to obtain daycare without the subsidy. The losers I suspect are the children of the latter group. It would seem to be the same dynamic as in the school system.

  7. Submitted by T J Simplot on 05/21/2013 - 09:24 am.

    Problem with both sides

    If you can tell me that every eligible day care provider will have a vote on this issue, I will not have a problem with it, but I foresee only a small portion of them having to approve it with the majoirty then having to pay dues.

    On the other hand, the Republican cries of payback are falling on my deaf ears. Do the Republicans honestly expect me to believe that they have never paid back their supporters?

  8. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 05/21/2013 - 10:05 am.

    They were really in a hurry to get out of there.

    I have it on very good authority that this will be challenged in the upcoming weeks, and will be forced out by the courts as being unconstitutional. So; what will happen next. Is Dayton going to try and pull an Obama and “executive order” the law into existence or are they going to come to the realization that this is not what the people want?

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/21/2013 - 06:53 pm.

      I doubt your good

      Authority. I also doubt your knowledge about the whole issue. The courts have already said no to the executive order idea. I do smell an attempt by the republican party to screw the poor. As usual.

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