State Senate panel hands union bill an unexpected defeat

On a tie vote, members of the Minnesota Senate Finance Committee today rejected a bill to allow the unionization of in-home child care providers and personal care assistants.

It was supposed to be the last stop before a floor vote in the final stretch of the legislative session. But Democratic Senators Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka and Barb Goodwin of Columbia Heights voted with Republicans against the bill.

“It’s not what my community wants,” Bonoff said before declining to answer additional questions.

The bill would allow providers who work with low-income families in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, and personal care assistants who work for the elderly and disabled to take votes on whether to join unions, and then bargain collectively with the state for higher subsidies.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said she was surprised and disappointed with the vote on her bill. But Pappas described it as a temporary setback.

“These are difficult decisions to make, and members are often torn about it,” Pappas said. “I just think that the entire Senate should take a vote on this and we deserve to have a full vote. So, I’m going to ask the committee when we go back tomorrow morning to move it out without recommendation.”

Republicans have opposed the bill every step of the way. Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, described the legislation as DFL payback to their union allies. Nienow also said he thinks the bill is unnecessary.

“Who are they going to negotiate with? They don’t need a union representative, they need a lobbyist,” Neinow said. “That’s why you look at this bill and it doesn’t make sense when you actually look at what it can do in the real world.”

The Senate Finance committee is scheduled to meet again Tuesday morning. But the panel’s chairman, Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, said he won’t bring up the unionization bill again unless it has the necessary votes.