When the ballots were tallied Tuesday, child care providers who receive state funding through the Care 4 Kids program voted 1603 to 88 for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 to represent them in negotiations with the state.
The workers were allowed to organize 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 two weeks ago to about 4,100 eligible providers in the state. Just under 1,700 were returned by Tuesday.
“Providers voted overwhelmingly in favor of a union voice,” O’Connor said.
According to a union press release the group, which receives state funding to take care of children from lower income households, has been trying to unionize since 2005.
Rhonda Butler, a daycare provider in Branford, said she has been trying to find a collective voice for home care providers for years.
“We need a clear, solid voice for Connecticut families to enrich child care because it’s been scattered for quite a long while,” she said.
Butler said that as president of her local daycare association, she has attempted to bring up a number of issues both to the state legislature and members of Congress, but the concerns have largely fallen on deaf ears.
She is hoping that the political clout of the union will attract some legislative attention to some regulations that she said impedes the care of children.
For instance, regulations allow her to take care of six kids throughout the day and three more after school during the school year, she said. However, as soon as the school year ends she can no longer care for the additional three, she said. Butler said it is unfair to families who must find a different provider and sometimes results in the separation of siblings.
The union could also help secure funding for day care providers to attend conferences and workshops that enhance the quality of care, she said. Currently, providers who attend the conferences usually pay for them out-of-pocket because few families can afford to subsidize them, she said.
However, opponents of Malloy’s executive order allowing the group to unionize say the governor was overreaching his authority. Sen. Joseph Markley, R- Southington, said the legislature looked at a similar proposal and didn’t act on it due to objections on both sides of the aisle.
“The whole thing, to my mind, has been extremely peculiar and rushed,” he said.
The vote to unionize was taken before a working group convened by Malloy finished its task of making recommendations on how best to structure a relationship between the state and whichever union the providers choose to represent them, he said.
He questioned whether the majority of day care workers even wanted to unionize. Less than half the number of ballots that were mailed out were actually returned, he said.
“Some of them voted for it, most didn’t vote,” he said.
Rep. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, said he didn’t think most of the people who voted or didn’t vote understood the process or that they could have chosen another union.
“It’s looking more and more likely that one day soon a lot of people in this state are going to wake up and find out they’re in a union—whether they wanted that or not,” he said.