Minnesota is atwitter this week in talk that the home-based daycare providers in the state may be unionized. There are some good reasons for the concern.
First, let’s draw one important distinction: We are not talking about large, commercial daycare businesses such as Kindercare (35 locations in the Twin Cities) or New Horizon Academy (over 50 locations in the state). Unionization may or may not be good for owners, employees, and customers of those businesses. (For the record, I have no idea which chain-based daycare centers, if any, are unionized.) But at least in this case, there’s a clear distinction between labor and management / owners. On paper if not in reality, the relationship between the two is adversarial. There’s a certain amount of revenue to be divided up between the two sides.
Now think of Denise Jorgenson (not her real name), a home-based daycare provider. I know her. I’ve been to her house many times, spending time in her living room, kitchen, and back yard. I know the names of her kids, how old they are, where they go to school, and what sports they play. I’ve been to some of their sporting events. I’ve met her husband, and know a little about his hobbies. I have a rough idea of where his hunting cabin is.
For her part, Denise has met my mother (who lives out of state) and my sister-in-law (who lives in town), and her son. Though it may be a stretch to call us close friends, she knows some of my personality tics, and we share some traits.
Denise also knows someone very important to me–my daughter. That’s because Denise is my daycare provider, watching over my child five to six hours a day, in her home. I write her a check every week for the supervision, instruction, and food she provides to my daughter.
Denise has no employees and no corporate manual that she needs to comply with. She has no boss, unless you count me and the five or six other parents who entrust their children to her.
When it comes to filing her taxes, she does not attach a W-2, which is what she would do if if she worked for New Horizon. As a self-employed business owner, she reports self-employment income and claims deductions for the business expenses to which she is entitled to do so.
Now tell me, where does a union of government employees (AFSCME) fit into this relationship? Why should I be forced to pay into the coffers of a well-connected, partisan political machines (the SEIU)? Remember, as one of Denise’s clients, I indirectly pay for her business expenses.
To be sure, Denise may want someone to represent her interests before government agencies and bodies. After all, she must comply with a variety of regulations laid down by the state, and enforced by the county. For example, her home is inspected for physical dangers, and she had to pass a background check. She also has to accumulate continuing education credits.
If she wishes to join up with others to express her opinions on these laws and regulations, she may avail herself of various interest groups, such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Or she may join the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, which offers its members a “voice at the state and national level.”
On the other hand, she doesn’t have to support those groups if she doesn’t want to. She does not have to advance their agendas, either with her membership or with dues, nor help pay the salaries of their executives, officers, and lobbyists.
Were she subjected to union membership by a “50 percent plus one” or card-check rule, she would have to support the agenda and employees of a union.
And that’s the difference between voluntary association and union membership forced on a self-employed individual. My relationship with Denise is voluntary. Her relationship with any outside organization alleging to advance her professional interest should be voluntary as well.