Governor Dayton Pulls Trigger on Controversial Providers Union

Providers fear bringing in outside firm to conduct vote could compromise fair process

Now that Governor Dayton has ordered a union vote, childcare providers who oppose it expressed concern over the fairness of the process and the potential for undue union influence in carrying out the election.

While the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) will oversee the union election, Dayton’s executive order allows the state to in effect outsource the job to an outside group paid for by the unions. The business will be going to the Minneapolis regional office of a company that’s held several childcare union elections in other states.

BMS may “designate the American Arbitration Association, subject to his oversight, to conduct all proceedings related to the elections in the appropriate units, in a fair and transparent manner,” according to Dayton’s executive order.

The document also directs any costs incurred in carrying out the balloting be paid for by AFSCME Council 5 and SEIU, the two unions organizing the prospective bargaining units. Childcare providers fighting the organizing drive fear there will be little or no firewall against outside union influence over the process.

“The union is going to get to have a say on what’s on the ballots and they’re going to have a say on how the cards are counted,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester childcare provider. “If this is truly an independent election, the unions should have nothing to do with it. We don’t know if they’re going to but when they’re paying for it, who is the American Arbitration Association going to listen to?”

On its website, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) vigorously defends its impartial approach, providing a detailed menu of election procedures online. “We’re a neutral company, that’s what we’re based on being a neutral organization,” said Jeff Zaino, AAA vice president labor, employment and elections. “We deal with both labor and management and they trust us with their arbitration cases and elections.”

AAA holds about 300 elections per year, including all of the high profile local teacher union recertification votes currently underway in Wisconsin.

“We do more union elections but we do associations, corporations, these type of votes,” said Jeff Zaino, vice president for AAA’s labor, employment and elections division. “We follow the US Department of Labor standards and the whole process is transparent. Any observer that wants to can observe any step of the process, from mailing the ballots to opening them up and tabulating them.”

A national expert with a legal aid foundation monitoring the union drive said turning to an outside group for validation is a common tactic.

“They’re like rent-a-judges, it’s a certification group,” said Bill Messenger, an attorney with the National Right to Work Foundation. “The unions and states use them to try to give some sort of pretext of legitimacy. The notion that the government is going to force childcare providers to support a participatory organization based on a vote turns the first amendment on its head. The vote doesn’t’ make it any more legitimate.”

In 2011, two states have rescinded childcare provider unions, Wisconsin and Michigan. In addition, Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a bill that would have unionized childcare providers in California.


The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has been tracking the controversial childcare union story every step of the way. To see how Minnesota got to this point and to better understand the potential implications of the union effort, FFM has posted several stories and key documents below.

FFM Stories

Sources: Gov. Dayton Close to Ordering Child Care Union Vote (11/11/11

Leaked Memo Fuels Concerns Over Child Care Union Debate (11/2/11)

Surprising Setback: Dayton Says No to Executive Order for Daycare Provider Union (9/14/11)

Home Daycare Providers Organize Against Statewide Unionization Campaign (6/13/11)


Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department Document

Minnesota DFL House Research Document


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