WAITE PARK - Recently, we told you about the rising costs of center-based daycare services in Minnesota. Well, tough economic times are also hitting licensed daycare professionals who operate their own businesses in their homes.

With this in mind, several dozen parents and independent child care providers stood together in favor of unionizing last night.

The group, brought together through the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, has taken a stand in support of creating a union for those who own and operate childcare centers in their homes.

The news conference, held at the Stearns County Service Center in Waite Park, preceded an exploratory public hearing before Minnesota State Health and Human Services committee members.

Union supporters, like parent Kimberly Johnson, argue that childcare provider unions will provide the support day care professionals need to maintain their businesses through tough economic times.

SEUI Executive Director Brian Elliott seconded Johnson's feelings, stating that more daycare professionals are concerned about the future of their businesses than ever before.

The SEIU reports there are 11,000 licensed in home childcare providers in Minnesota. Of those, more than half have signed union authorizations cards.

Currently, 12 states in the U.S. offer union benefits for in-home childcare providers.

Meanwhile, after the news conference held by union supporters, the Health and Human Services Reform Committee held a two hour hearing on the issue.  State Representative Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud says a majority of the people who testified at the hearing were opposed to unionizing.

Gottwalt says about 100 people attended last night's hearing.  There was also another hearing last night in Rochester.