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Minn. senators up all night debating child-care worker unions

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Minnesota senators have approved a bill aimed at allowing in-home child-care workers and personal care attendants for the elderly to unionize. The senators pulled an all-nighter Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, and after 17 hours of debate, they approved the measure on a 35-32 vote, the Star Tribune reports.

Lawmakers spent part of the early-morning hours struggling to get through a stack of proposed amendments, but just before 7 a.m. Wednesday, GOP senators dropped the remaining amendments, and final debate began, the newspaper reported.

At issue is whether the small private businesses should be given the right to choose whether to unionize. Supporters say the legislation would allow them to negotiate better payments from the state, which offers subsidy payments to businesses whose workers care for low-income children and the elderly.

The workers currently don't have that right to unionize and negotiate with the state. Gov. Mark Dayton had tried through an executive order to offer workers the right, but a court struck it down a year ago.

The bill sets rules for how unions would be allowed to be organized, the Star Tribune reports. The unions would have exclusive rights to negotiate with the state, and agreements would have to be approved by the Legislature.

But critics said the measure was not necessary. “This is going to result in higher costs for parents, lower pay for child-care providers and $8 million in union dues,” Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said, the Star Tribune reported.

Unions that back the measure “are hiding behind children” in an effort to make money, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said, Forum Communications reported.

Franson said state subsidies that are supposed to help poor families afford child care would be diverted to required payments to unions.

Both the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune have had editorials opposing the legislation.

The number of workers that could be affected by the legislation is roughly 21,000, union members have said.

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