Connecticut is taking a big step forward for working families and their children by giving family child care providers an official voice with the state.  After more than 6 years of working to form our union, a bill at the capitol has finally been voted on by the House of Representatives that will allow us to sit down with the state and negotiate a contract. Our bill is now headed for the Senate where we’re optimistic that State Senators will do the right thing and support our right to collectively bargain.

Providers like myself fill an important niche in Connecticut. We are professionals who take children into our homes at all hours of the day and night for parents who work third shift in nursing homes, and hospitals — times when child care centers are normally closed. We are often the first teachers a child has outside their own home, and the work we do helps our kids begin kindergarten ready to learn. But many family child care providers are struggling because the state doesn’t give us the resources we need to do our job. We are basically treated as low-wage contractors to the state. We are working without a say in the Care 4 Kids program, which is integral to our small businesses.

Many of us can’t afford health insurance, and that has led thousands of quality family child care providers to leave the field in search of more stable working situations.  Our collective bargaining bill has been deemed controversial, but it’s hard to see why. It’s common sense that if you want to attract and keep good people, you have to make it so they can make a decent living doing the job. The right to sit down and negotiate doesn’t cost anything but it will go a long way toward correcting this brain drain and help improve standards for our kids.

Opponents of our collective bargaining bill range from tea party republicans eagerly engaged in the war on women, to daycare centers trying to stomp out competition. They have been railing away against our efforts, making outrageous claims to news media with no deference to the facts. They have claimed everything from “we are being forced into forming a union” to declaring that maybe we are just too stupid to understand what’s going on. Last month, a self-proclaimed “constitution lobby” even filed a lawsuit against Governor Malloy for issuing the order that gave us the right to vote in a union election. The group declared that our right to a democratic vote was a “violation akin to slavery.” It’s downright insulting. Let’s call this smear campaign what it truly is — an effort to stop low income women (98 percent of daycare workers are women) — from having rights.

We voted 1603 to 88 to form our union for a reason: Respect. This bill is about respect for the work we do preparing children for school and making it possible for working families to earn a living. If we, as a state, value preparing children so they can begin school ready to learn by retaining the best child care providers, then our right to negotiate a contract is something you should support.

Lisa Hinman is the owner of Lisa’s Little Angels Daycare in Naugatuck.