Bill would unionize child care providers

Home-based childcare providers throughout Rhode Island will be eligible to form and join a union if the legislation sponsored by Senator Mary Ellen Goodwin (D-Providence) gains traction. The Governor would be required to meet with the union within 30 days. Mediation would then ensue to arrive at a compensation package if no agreement is reached. With absolute sleight of hand the legislation disclaims that the workers would be state employees, but nothing precludes the providers from negotiating the same package of benefits that state workers receive.  Paid vacations, retirement plans, and health care cannot be far behind. This proposal should never see the light of day.
Back in 2004, legislators tried to extend union status to day care workers, but then-Governor Don Carcieri nixed the plan by vetoing the bill. He wisely saw that allowing the unionization of providers opens a Pandora’s Box to other interest groups similarly situated. As I wrote in a column back then, why not allow the unionization of snow plow contractors who also get paid by the state? How about permitting nursing home operators the right to unionize since they too receive state money and have to comply with regulations? The list of wannabes is interminable. That’s why federal law (subject to state exemptions) prohibits the unionization of private providers.
I remember well an  interview I conducted when I was a talk show host on WHJJ. An irate provider accompanied a union representative that afternoon. She grossed over $100,000 a year, had no college education, and was not a citizen. Yet she complained that taxpayers should help pay for her retirement and family health benefits.
Make no mistake about it: this newest legislative gamble is designed to make the providers de facto state employees. The whole system was and can be subject to abuse. For example, if I lived across the street from you, I could send my children to your licensed “day care center” and you’d get paid per child. You would return the favor by sending your children to mine since the rules merely prevent one from collecting payment for overseeing one’s own children.
In 2004 Governor Carcieri wanted to deny supplemental payments to welfare recipients who didn’t comply with their back-to-work plan for 12 straight months. In effect, the recipient could collect welfare benefits, health care for her and the family, and at the last moment come into compliance by enrolling in a course. Meanwhile, taxpayers paid for her child care, despite the fact that the parent wasn’t doing anything during the day. The Governor was painted as a “meanie” for trying to set up rules.
The present General Assembly is once again on the brink of servitude to unions, as evidenced by this legislation. Mandatory arbitration legislation quietly lurks in the background for teachers, which would give the union an upper hand in negotiations of contracts. Regrettably, taxpayers have to stay ever-vigilant as the legislators return to bad habits.
Senator Goodwin assures the public that the day care workers will not be allowed to go on strike. Sure, just like the prohibition in present law that precludes teachers’ strikes. The legislation is devoid of any penalty if there is a strike so it’s a rhetorical exercise. You are about to be hosed, taxpayer, if this act becomes law.


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