After a six-year struggle, childcare providers will be unionized following a vote announced Tuesday.
In a secret ballot held through the U.S. mail, the providers voted 1,603 to 88 to join the union, according to Matt O'Connor, a spokesman for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001. The American Arbitration Association - a neutral group - counted the votes Tuesday.
O'Connor noted that the union had been seeking unionization for six years for the providers who care for children in their private homes. Overall, about 96 percent of the providers are women, he said. Nationally, 15 states have similar unions. He noted that there are about 4,000 providers, covering all 169 cities and towns with the highest numbers in the cities. The providers all participate in the Care4Kids program, the state's primary childcare subsidy that is managed by the state Department of Social Services.
“We started six years ago, helping to organize them,’’ O'Connor told Capitol Watch. “Six years we’ve been at this. A long, long process.’’
He added, “This particular group needed a voice. They care for children of families who qualify for assistance to enable working parents to re-enter the job market or for folks to finish their education. … They’re an important part of early education.’’
“There have been long waiting lists’’ for children trying to get into Care4Kids, he said.
The issue began to move forward in September when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat who won the governorship by one half of 1 percentage point with the help of state unions, signed an executive order that paved the way toward collective bargaining. The issue had been bottled up in the legislature for years, and opponents said that Malloy was making an end-run around the legislative process.
“My position all along has been that family child care workers should have the right to organize, which is exactly what they have chosen to do,'' Malloy said in a statement. "I hope that they will use their new collective voice to effect positive changes to the Care 4 Kids program.”
Senator Joseph Markley, one of the most outspoken opponents, said, "Through this power grab, state employee unions have reached right into the homes of Connecticut residents. The process has been suspect from the start, beginning with Governor Malloy's executive order, which ignored the will and the authority of the legislature. Now the vote of a small number of day care providers, who run a business out of the home and care for the children of a family that receives Care 4 Kids, will force the rest to pay dues to a union, and accept the deal negotiated on their behalf. If there is a movement for unionization, I believe it should come from the people in the industry, not be imposed by the governor in league with SEIU.''
A Southington Republican, Markley said, "This is part of a nationwide effort to create more dues-paying members of SEIU. At last count, this forced unionization has been attempted in fifteen states. Some have resisted it successfully; we will continue to fight it here in Connecticut."
Responding to Markley, O'Connor told Capitol Watch: "The lack of opposition during the drive, other than from a handful of politicians, is pretty remarkable. ... We had a secret ballot election here, where those who voted are independent voters. There was no employer harassment or intimidation. Markley is just touting the same anti-worker, anti-union rhetoric that is being pushed by these corporate front groups. We are talking about mostly women who are at or even below the poverty level. They're making minimum wage or less. Markley is just all wrong with this claim about this all being about union dues. There will be no union dues until these workers are covered by a contract, and they won't be covered by a contract until they have the right to bargain collectively.''
O'Connor added, "I'm sure the guy believes what he's being told. But what he's being told is being fed to him by corporate front groups that have a political agenda. ... Here's what happens when workers aren't harassed or intimidated and can decide whether they want to join a union or not.''
In an interview, Senate Republican leader John McKinney told Capitol Watch : "It's not a surprise. This was set up from the beginning. That does not change the fact that the executive orders issued by the governor are well beyond the reach of the governor's powers. In my opinion, as a policy matter, they cause harm to certain people, especially people in the disability community. If you talk to them and listen to them, at the public forum held by Senator Markley and Representative Sampson, many people testified that this will not help them.''
McKinney referred to Malloy's "unconstitutional executive orders, Number 9 and 10.''
"I don't know the legal ramifications of the union vote - if there's an appeal process,'' McKinney said.
"Clearly the driving force behind the executive orders was the Governor's desire to increase the union membership,'' McKinney said. "You get a significant amount of union dues.''Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun