A group of about 4,100 child care providers who receive state funding through the Care 4 Kids program began voting last week to decide whether CSEA/SEIU 2001 will represent them in collectively bargaining for pay and benefits.
The vote comes as a result of one of two executive orders signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, clearing a path for the daycare providers and personal care attendants to collectively bargain.
CSEA/SEIU 2001 spokesman Matt O’Connor said ballots were mailed to all eligible providers in the state last week. Voting will conclude on Tuesday, Dec. 20.
O’Connor said the goal is to eventually negotiate a contract with the state for the providers who typically operate out of their homes and serve low-income families under the Care 4 Kids program.
It is not clear yet how or when the union will begin talks with the state if it’s elected. Last week a working group convened by Malloy began its task of making recommendations on how best to structure a relationship between the state and whichever union the providers choose to represent them. Those recommendations aren’t due until February.
Still O’Connor said representation could help keep more people working in a field with a high turnover rate.
“There is a high demand for these type of services and too few providers serving families across Connecticut,” he said.
Lizavetta Galindo said she has been a child care provider for three years and voted for the union. Galindo said she hopes that CSEA/SEIU will be able to negotiate more reliable payments from the Care 4 Kids program.
Occasionally the program will reevaluate the income of a family receiving the benefits and decide they no longer qualify, she said. When that happens the daycare provider is not notified and can continue taking care of the child, unaware they may not be compensated by the state, she said.
Sometimes payments run more than a month behind schedule, leaving the provider unable to recoup over a month’s worth of services, she said. Galindo said she hoped a union could make sure that providers are paid every week or every other week.
“If we were paid bi-weekly or every week it would be a big, big change,” she said. “…So I we would lose one week instead of a whole month.”
Galindo said she hoped the union could eventually negotiate health care and education benefits for child care workers. She said she planned to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, which would help make her job easier.
“If you study psychology you can better understand the needs of the kids in your care,” she said.
But opponents of Malloy’s executive order like Sen. Joseph Markley, R- Southington, say the governor overstepped his authority by ordering something within the purview of the legislature. The General Assembly considered a similar bill to help child care workers organize earlier this year, but it died on the Senate calendar.
“Let’s work it out, that’s what the legislature exists for. Rushing forward by these executive orders is just not right. It’s not constitutionally right,” Markley said. “… If there was sufficient legislative hesitance in a Democratic legislature to going ahead with this proposition, it needs to be worked out.”
Markley said the order was a deal between the unions and the administration aimed at increasing union membership. He said the push for both the daycare workers and the personal care attendants to organize was being conducted in an under-handed way.
Like Markley, Rep. Robert Sampson, R- Wolcott, said the process was being rushed and people are not really aware it is happening. He said that every time he has spoken to someone who has signed a union authorization card for SEIU, that person was not aware of what the document was.
“At some point, maybe Dec. 20, people are going to wake up and they are going to be members of SEIU,” he said.
Sampson said he was under the impression that there wasn’t a “no” option on the ballots sent out to child care workers, allowing them to opt out of union representation. So even if only one person returns a ballot the union will have won the election, he said.
“Essentially it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that on the 20th when the election is over, on the 21st they’re going to have a meeting here and they’re going to say ‘well SEIU won,’” he said.
However, a voting instruction pamphlet posted on the union’s website includes a sample ballot which asks “Do you wish to have SEIU as your representative for the purpose of collective negotiation?” The question gives the option to check either “yes” or “no.”
Sampson said he thought the argument that there are not enough child care workers to handle the demand was made up.
“I am not anti-union in any way, shape, or form. I just feel that if there is a group of people who feel that they need to their situation represented, and they want to collectively bargain then they should find a way to unionize themselves,” he said.