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OTHER OPINION: Does a child care union help kids?

Recent discussions about a statewide effort to unionize in-home child care providers raise a number of good questions. But the one question that stands out — and the one lacking a definitive answer — is really quite simple.

How will it help the children?

Please know that question is posed with sincerity and respect. It is not asked in a trite manner, nor in any way that undervalues the valuable role in-home providers fulfill for countless Minnesota families. It is a simple inquiry: How will forming a union yield better care of children by in-home providers?

We ask it because in following news coverage statewide of this unionization push, we have yet to hear much of an answer from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, the two entities pushing DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to culminate their multiyear bid for unionizing about 11,000 self-employed, in-home providers.

Their main selling points seem focused on benefiting providers. For example, they say a union will bolster the in-home providers’ roles and voices regarding regulations. It also could give them more say in subsidies provided to low-income families in need of help paying for care. 

Let’s be honest. While there may be some positive ripple effects for kids and families (think better-trained providers) it seems obvious most of those benefits are directly connected to providers’ bottom lines.

That’s not a bad thing, but how does it help the children? To say nothing of the parents (and taxpayers) who ultimately pay those bills?

Remember, in-home providers are independent businesses. Government essentially prescribes the minimal conditions required for licenses. 

Under that system, who exactly is the union representing providers to? Government? Families? On the former, there already is at least one group that lobbies on behalf of providers. As to the latter, it’s hard to grasp why unions should play a role in any business-consumer relationship, much less be a driving force in it.