Friday, March 04, 2005

Child-Care Providers seek ability to Unionize

"This is an opportunity for the state to develop a segment of our workforce that has long been overlooked but is nothing less than integral to our whole economy[...]Working families rely on having someone dependable, trustworthy and loving to care for their children while the parents are at work, so the strength of our entire workforce and economy is dependent upon the quality of care these workers can provide[.]"

And with those words, Rep. Gordon Fox, introduced the Family Child Care Business Opportunity Act (H6099 and S0855). These bills would allow Rhode Island child-care providers the ability to unionize without becoming state employees. The hope would be to get them a seat at the table when it comes time to negotiating salary, healthcare, and other concerns they have. Currently, the Departments of Human Services (DHS) and Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) control the child-care provider industry without any stipulations for child-care providers' input. DHS and DCYF enforce numerous regulations child-care providers must adhere to in order to receive payment for their services and legally operate in Rhode Island. As a group, they do not have a means to directly negotiate with these departments and fought unsuccessfully last year to become state employees. Thus, unionizing keeps them from becoming state employees, creating more tax burdens for you and me, AND gives them the right to bargain with the state. But what is this really about? Is this about unions wanting to control another sector of the economy to have a larger political influence? Is this about child-care providers wanting to overburden the state's Starting RIght Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)? Actually, based on child-care providers willingness to compromise you can only conclude that the 1,300 providers genuinely face legitimate obstacles in their business and desire representation of their concerns in order to best provide for the families they serve and ensure the success of their businesses. In January, I had the opportunity to meet with my representative, Grace Diaz (a child-care provider herself), about this then-proposed legislation. Initially, I was very skeptical of the idea in sofar as this being a union-led initiative instead of being child-care provider-led. But based on that conversation, I am in agreement that child-care providers in RI NEED a voice. Rep. Diaz recounted various stories, some her own, of child-care providers facing obstacles with the state and having no recourse or medium to address them. Consequently, this legislation gives child-care providers the 'voice' they desperately seek and need. Though I still have valid concerns about what a union will ultimately look like, let's support these bills and allow both child-care providers and their ensuing union to prove they are more interested in bargaining with the state than pushing their own agenda to the detriment of anyone standing in their way. They, and our children, deserve nothing less.


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