It’s for the children

Am I the only one who is fed up with the rhetoric about “helping the children” when the reality is that it’s to line the pockets of the providers of some service or another? This old chestnut “for the kids” was dragged out again by a Pawtucket day care provider, who, no doubt, is salivating about her soon-to-be-negotiated higher pay for her child care job, including paid vacations, paid professional development, sick days, holidays, ….well, you get the picture. Will they be able to strike, too?
The General Assembly Representatives and members of a Senate subcommittee, as of this writing, passed legislation promoted by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to swell the ranks of its dues-paying members by adding day care workers de facto to its ranks. Governor Lincoln Chafee, who was endorsed by SEIU, says he promised the union that he’d sign the bill if it gets to his desk. He ignores the admonition of former Governor Don Carcieri who called a similar bill in his tenure a financial and legal disaster. The former governor is correct in his assessment.
This legislation makes it an “obligation” of the governor or his designee (the Senate version leaves it to the Director of Administration) to negotiate rates, benefits and other “terms and conditions” and “economic matters” with child care workers. As Mr. Carcieri pointed out in his 2005 veto, national labor leaders have for years been trying to unionize these workers. The legislators to date and the Governor rolled over like Rover in passing this ill-conceived bill in order to court union support.
Governor Carcieri pointed out that Rhode Island was the only state to make child care subsidies an entitlement to income-eligible families. The program is among the most generous and per-capita costly in the nation, he noted. His veto message stated that some providers make $90,000 in reimbursement from the taxpayers annually.
Like the 2005 legislation, this bill states that nothing in this chapter shall be construed to make family child care providers employees of the state for any purpose, nor will they be eligible for state employee health care benefits. This is a legal fig leaf. As the former Governor pointed out, the drafters know full well that a court of law might rule that the providers are state employees because of the confluence of factors, including new benefits negotiated with the Governor or designee.
So, the very same lawmakers who promised to focus on economic and job development have signaled anew to any businesses that might consider locating here that this state is captive to union interests. The only worse rhetoric than “this is for the kids” is “I want to create a pro-job environment” uttered by the lackeys in the State House.
If the governor signs this legislation, then any reader who is an entrepreneur should start to unionize the 14- and 15-year old babysitters out there. They, too, can have a piece of the action and have the youngsters become a de facto state employee. The state can then return back to the days when legislators allowed for student time passing out milk in the cafeteria to count toward pension longevity. Happy Days are here again…except for  the taxpayers, that is!

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