Counterpoint: Child-care union effort truly is suspect

  • Article by: HOLLEE SAVILLE
  • Updated: October 3, 2013 - 6:21 PM

AFSCME is wrong. An editorial calling out organizers for the message they’re giving was on the mark.

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Jennifer Munt of AFSCME talked to daycare providers in February before going into a press conference to support the Child Care Collective bargaining Act.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, DML - Star Tribune

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Using words like “injustice,” “shocking” and “venomous” does not change the facts. If those communicating on behalf of AFSCME take this many liberties in a newspaper commentary (“Child-care providers deserve a union vote,” Oct. 1), why would anyone believe that the union will follow through on its promises ­— most of which remain unfulfilled for providers in other unionized states?

The only thing AFSCME can guarantee is that providers will be paying more and that, in turn, families and taxpayers will likely pay more.

Those who claim that unionization will improve the quality of child care also are distorting history — incongruously invoking the women’s suffrage movement — as they make their case. Historical figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, were they alive today, would likely be protesting the forced unionization of independent small businesses and the fact that a vote on unionization would exclude 50 percent of licensed family child-care providers, most of whom are women.

We are not “low-wage workers.” We are self-employed small-business owners who choose our own rates, hours and working conditions. Subsidy payments are a benefit for families. Providers are not subsidized by the state, and we are not public employees. Providers can charge families the difference between their regular rate and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rate.

The authors of the Oct. 1 commentary — AFSCME’s Jennifer Munt, and Lisa Thompson of Child Care Providers Together — skew statistics from the Minnesota Department of Human Services by stating that “home-based child-care providers who are subsidized by the state earn less than minimum wage.” The hourly rate for one child on CCAP is less than minimum wage; however, providers typically have several children in their care, including children who are not on CCAP.

Legislators already have the power to raise the CCAP rate, yet the DFL legislators who pushed for child-care unionization chose not to do so last session, even with majority control and without a veto threat. They did not feel it was important, yet claim the reason they voted for child-care unionization was to raise the rate.

Why should the money be funneled through AFSCME?

Munt and Thompson state that providers should “prepare disadvantaged children to succeed in school and life.” Yet 37 percent of licensed family child-care providers have said they will not take families on CCAP if we are unionized because they would be forced to pay union dues or fair-share fees. How does limiting quality child-care options for low-income families improve the educational prospects of their children?

The commentary’s statement that children are “less susceptible to SIDS” if they sleep on their backs and its implication that establishing a routine will keep them safe are further proof that the prospect of unionized family child care is alarming. It is absolutely tragic and unimaginable for any child to die, but gross misrepresentations like this are detrimental. SIDS cannot be prevented; you can only remove risk factors to help decrease the possibility.

We already have to take training in first aid, CPR, SIDS/SUIDS and other matters regularly; we do not need a union to give us something we already have. Training for addressing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death can range from free to $20. I question the validity of AFSCME’s statement that providers pay up to $300 for a CPR class; the average cost around the state is $40 to $60.

We are strong, amazing and capable women (predominantly) who love and care for children. I have seen it firsthand, and have yet to see any providers who need a union. I have never been called a baby sitter; the only times I have heard the terms used about family child-care providers is by the union. How can AFSCME claim it will lift our profession when it portrays us as weak providers who “need the union?”

It is laughable that Thompson and Munt justify forced unionization because some licensers misinterpret rules. Since many of those licensers are AFSCME union members, why doesn’t AFSCME just tell them to be consistent instead of taking money from both licensers and providers, then pretending to represent both groups?

We already have a voice. Many of us have worked — at no cost to others — with the Department of Human Services, with licensers and with legislators to promote consistency, fairness and understanding of licensing regulations and enforcement. We did all this without the “help” of a union.

As small-business owners, we family child-care providers have the freedom to love and teach children in the way we know best. It means waking up each morning eager for the adventure of a new day, getting to share laughter, give and receive hugs, sow love, build confidence, soothe ouchies, dry tears, exchange smiles, and help children reach their full potential. It means having the intelligence, motivation, resourcefulness and willingness to take risks to make an income doing something we absolutely love. It means being creative, going boldly, researching best practices and working beyond our business hours. It also means that we are individually responsible for all of our successes and failures.

It means we cannot legally be forced to unionize, because we are business owners, and sometimes employers, and have the freedom to be our own voice or voluntarily join with others to advocate for our independent businesses.

Every day, we make positive differences in the lives of Minnesota’s families … without a union. We will continue to give children the best possible care … without a union.

 

Hollee Saville is a licensed family child-care provider in St. Michael, Minn.

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