Posted at: 05/16/2013 4:40 PM
Updated at: 05/17/2013 7:39 AM
By: Stephen Tellier

Print Story  Email to a Friend

Parents Express Concerns about Day Care Unionization Costs

In Minnesota, child care can already cost more than a year of state college tuition.

A national child-care advocacy group, Child Care Aware of America, found one year of infant care in a center in Minnesota costs more than $13,000.
 
One year for a preschooler costs more than $10,000. Only three other states - all in the northeast - have pricier child care.
 
So could your child care costs climb even higher if day care workers in Minnesota are allowed to form a union?
 
The Senate passed the day care unionization bill on Wednesday. If it passes the House, workers would have the opportunity to vote on whether to form a union. If they do, day care owners would either become dues-paying members or choose to forgo state subsidies.
 
"It's just not something I'd ever considered before -- the cost of day care. And now, it's like, 'Holy crap. How on earth am I going to do this?'" said Sarah Colvin, who has a one-year-old daughter.
 
Child care in Minnesota is so expensive, Colvin simply can't afford it for her daughter.
 
"And being pregnant with the second one, I can't afford two kids in day care," Colvin said.
 
And even higher rates could be on the way.
 
If home day care workers are allowed to join a union, supporters say they could collectively bargain for higher state subsidies, and in turn, improve their quality of care without increasing costs. But opponents insist it will pump up prices for parents, as providers pass the cost of union dues on to their customers.
 
"If it has any impact at all, I would guess it would have to increase it a little bit," said Dave Vang, an economist with the University of St. Thomas.
 
But Vang couldn't predict how high prices could climb because the details of such a union haven't been worked out yet.
 
"I don't know if it would be a benefit for me or not," said Beckie Geinger, who runs a home day care in St. Paul.
 
She's part of a majority of licensed day cares - 55 percent - that said they would raise rates because of union dues, according to a survey conducted by the state child care association.
 
"You'd have to increase your rates across the board," Geinger said.
 
"You really can't put a price on quality child care," said Jessica Tickner, a mother of two.
 
But cost is Colvin's primary concern.
 
"I understand that looking after people's children -- people deserve to be a paid a lot for it. But at the same time, people have to be able to afford it," Colvin said.
 
The bill still has to clear the House, and a vote is expected on Saturday. Its fate there is unclear, as the bill barely passed the Senate, and only did so after 17 hours of debate on the issue.
 
That survey taken by the state child care association found that 86 percent of licensed providers do not support the formation of a union. But most of those don't serve families that get state assistance, and only day cares that do would be allowed to vote on forming a union.