This week I called a dozen different home providers for a story on the effort to unionize day care workers. All of them told me the unionization effort was a bad idea. Many seemed confused about the effort, uncertain of any details of the campaign.
This was obviously not a scientific poll, just a random effort to try and get someone to agree to an on camera interview. Most of these day care providers were women who expressed concern that someone else might now be the boss, that in addition to state regulators and inspectors a union might be calling the shots for their small business. Others said they would raise their prices to pass on the cost of union dues.
Later that day I did find, with the help of AFSCME (the state employee union) a provider who spoke in favor of the union effort. The fourteen children this woman cared for are all low income and their day care costs are state subsidized. Ninety percent of the cost of the family’s day care came directly from the state to her. The program is an effort based on income guidelines to get low-income parents in the workforce. Without this program, these parents would be an even larger drain on state programs as they would not able to earn a living.
But for the day care provider, the state subsidy program is a tangle of bureaucracy and complex regulations. There are often week-long delays between the time the provider cares for the child and when the provider gets the state subsidy check. A case could be made that these day care providers, whose income comes almost exclusively in the form of a paycheck from the state, are state employees.
Should these day care workers be unionized? That is up to them. Put to a vote, I think those dependent on state subsidies would vote yes to a union. But for the day care workers who do not get state subsidies, who are paid directly by parents, the argument for a union appears unconvincing at best.