CHAPTER 21 Family Child Care Workers Organize SEIU Wins Public Sector Gains With Kids FirstM artina Casey, a child care provider in Illinois, had no health insurance in 2004 when doctors discovered shehad uid on her brain and a rare tumor. She went from one viders aimed at improving early care and education for chil- dren. at has linked SEIU with working parents, who need child care for their kids, as well as educators and family advo-overcrowded hospital to the next. Finally, when she found one cates who increasingly have helped the public recognize thatthat would take her, Casey ended up with emergency surgery investment in quality child care pays long-term dividends forand a $30,000 debt. the economy and broader society. But today, if Casey had similar medical problems, she “For every $1 the government spends on quality child care,would get high-quality care under health insurance she en- the government saves $7 on welfare, incarceration, etc.,” saidjoys as one of about 49,000 SEIU family child care provid- Dan Lesser, an expert on child care policy at the Sargent Shriverers in Illinois covered under a union contract that includes National Center on Poverty Law.good bene ts. “And the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that Since 2005, nearly 100,000 family child care providers in there is a 17 percent annual rate of return on investment inWashington, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Maine have won quality early learning programs—and that this is the best in-SEIU contracts. SEIU Kids First—the country’s largest child vestment of public dollars that we can make,” Lesser told thecare and early childhood education union—has sought to unite founding convention of the Early Learning Division of SEIUproviders, parents, children’s advocates, business, community Local 925 in Tacoma, Washington, in 2007.leaders, and public o cials in a new movement to improve SEIU’s growth in the child care/early education sectorchild care and early learning. evolved in part out of the union’s successful strategies that en- For a child care provider such as Martina Casey, an SEIU abled thousands of home care workers to win union contracts.contract meant not only a ordable healthcare, but also train- Family child care providers who worked in their homes lackeding incentives, and a 35 percent average reimbursement rate the rights to organize and to bargain collectively, much like theincrease. In Illinois and Washington State, SEIU’s agreements home care workers in Los Angeles when they began their strug-focused on ensuring a well-trained workforce by creating tiered gle (see Chapter 10). In order to successfully unionize homereimbursements for licensed family providers that are based on care workers, SEIU had to win state legislation in California fora quality rating system. Workers who meet quality standards counties to create public entities with authority to bargain withfor the child care they provide and who get extra training are the union representatives of home care workers.eligible for increases on top of their base pay. SEIU pursued a similar model for child care and won a SEIU’s success in organizing child care workers has been breakthrough in Illinois in February 2005 when the governortied closely to the union’s advocacy of high standards for pro- there issued an executive order permitting family child care
154 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIU providers receiving state subsidies to organize into unions. e order required the state to engage in “collective negotiations” with the representatives chosen by the child care workers. SEIU under then-Local 880’s chief organizer, Keith Kelle- her, had been working for years in Illinois to build a base of support among child care providers at the same time SEIU leaders had been developing the framework that would allow those workers to win union protections. But once the executive order was issued, another union—AFSCME— led a lawsuit seeking to overturn the order. In the end, SEIU lawyers prevailed and AFSCME lost its lawsuit. In short order, more than 49,000 Illinois child care providers voted for SEIU to represent them. Soon the union and the state of Illinois began bargaining and eventually reached a three-year contract worth an estimat- ed $250 million. It provided: Subsidy Rate Increases. SEIU members received four in- creases in subsidy base rates totaling 35 percent over three years (which began in April 2006). Training/Quality Incentives. Providers who met certain training and/or quality standards received an additional 5 percent increase on top of the base rate. Health Insurance. Illinois contributed $27 million to- ward premiums for health insurance. Grievance Procedures. Payments to SEIU child care pro- viders had to be made in a timely fashion and grievances could be settled by binding arbitration. I n addition to the contract gains in Illinois, SEIU pushed the governor and the state legislature to expand funding of child care centers providing subsidized care, even though the workers at those centers were not members of the union and the centers were not covered by the SEIU contract. Outside experts saw SEIU using its political power to advocate for quality child careSEIU’s child care organizing breakthrough came in Illinois in 2005 when49,000 workers joined the union and won wage gains and healthcare. in Illinois—even in programs where it didn’t have members.
FAMILY CHILD CARE WORKERS ORGANIZE 155 e National Women’s Law Center, in an in-depth studyentitled Getting Organized, found the work SEIU and childcare advocates did at the centers was “a model for how advo-cates can use unionization of [child care providers] to help liftall boats.”155 SEIU also produced white papers and other documenta-tion of the very positive impact of expanding child care andeducation. e union played a major role in convincing gover-nors and other top o cials that education and care of childrenfrom birth to school would pay great dividends to society. e successful organizing of the 49,000 family child care SEIU Local 880 leaders and members who worked in family child care cel-workers in Illinois and the achievement of a rst contract with ebrated a three-year, $250 million contract that gave 49,000 workers training and quality incentives, a grievance procedure, and other gains.big pay increases and healthcare coverage predictably set ostrong interest among similar workers in other states. SEIU gins and began bargaining in July 2006. In November, SEIUhad brought major gains to a workforce made up mainly of and the state reached an agreement giving members who par-women and people of color. ey worked in their homes ticipated in the subsidy program:for low wages so that other low-wage parents could have a 10 percent increase over the existing pay rates for licensedtheir children cared for while they went to work themselves. providers and a 7 percent increase for license-exempt In Washington State, SEIU members turned out in large providers;numbers to back Christine Gregoire for governor in 2004. state-provided health insurance beginning in 2008 for li-A strong advocate for working families, she defeated a con- censed providers with a health plan that provides no de-servative Republican in that race. e governor went on to ductible, no screening for pre-existing conditions, vision,issue an “executive directive” permitting home-based provid- and 90 percent to 100 percent in-hospitalization;ers to organize and directing the Department of Social and a training fund for license-exempt providers—they wereHealth Services to “meet and confer” with union representa- given paid training and a $250 bonus if they become li-tives. By March 2006, SEIU won legislation giving stronger censed and get a $600 bonus upon completion of 10 hourscollective bargaining rights to family child care providers who of approved training each contract year;receive subsidies.156 a grievance procedure that holds the state accountable to Two bargaining units developed in Washington: one for all terms of the contract; andthose providers who receive subsidies and the other for those contract language that required that child care providerswho do not. ose without subsidies had “meet and confer” get accurate and timely payments from the state.authority only for the purpose of shaping the regulatory re-quirements that apply to them.157 To help meet the needs of working parents, SEIU negoti- Child care providers in both bargaining units chose SEIU ated provisions that gave licensed providers a bonus for caringLocal 925, led by Kim Cook, to represent them by huge mar- for children during nonstandard hours. And the contract also
156 STRONGER TOGETHER: THE STORY OF SEIUincreased the state reimbursement rate for infant care in re- Sue Winn, who has been a child care provider for moresponse to the shortage of such care. than 27 years, works in La Conner, Washington, and gave up One of the major problems facing families with children the raises in the second contract. “Parents can only a ord sowho need care is that nearly one-third of child care center much,” she noted. “We need to invest more funds into earlyworkers leave the early education eld each year. SEIU part- learning so that our children can go to school ready to learn.nered with child care centers and schools in an e ort to help Family home child care is one of the best investments wekeep experienced sta doing the jobs they love. SEIU teachers can make.”at 10 child care centers in King County, for example, worked In Oregon, SEIU helped win executive orders from Gov-with child care providers, state legislators, and child advocates ernor Ted Kulongoski in 2005 and 2006. e union reachedto establish the state’s rst Child Care Wage-Career Ladder, a contract with the state for license-exempt family child carewhich established job titles and wages based on teacher experi- providers. It provided an average rate increase of 18 percentence and education. and established a training program to help them improve their skills, with a 7 percent increase for completing the training. More than 500 SEIU members took advantage of the trainingT he union won a second contract running through 2011 in Washington, which was su ering from the severe eco-nomic downturn. SEIU members, putting meaning behind and received the bonus for improving their skills. SEIU Kids First providers in Oregon also won an agree-the commitment to place Kids First, agreed to give back their ment that gives thousands more families access to a ordableraises to the state in return for keeping parent co-pays stable. child care by reducing parent co-payments by 20 percent, as e raises, which would have amounted to an estimated $8 well as widening the eligibility ceiling so more parents can par-million, went instead to maintain a ordable care for families in ticipate in the subsidized care programs.Washington State. Elsewhere, inadequate federal funding has driven cash- strapped states to raise eligibility requirements for child care assistance, increase parent co-pays, institute waiting lists, and freeze or even cut reimbursement rates. As in Illinois and Washington, SEIU Kids First con- tracts have given child care providers access to low-cost health insurance plans—either from the state or from SEIU’s own insurance plan. S EIU’s public services division won another big organizing victory in the Kids First child care/Head Start campaign when some 5,000 family child care providers in Maryland won a rst contract in July 2009. Licensed and license-exempt providers in SEIU received an average 2.9 percent increase over existing subsidy rates, but
FAMILY CHILD CARE WORKERS ORGANIZE 157 or gaining an education through welfare-to-work programs. ey were concentrated in Maryland’s most underserved communities. e Kids First Maryland/SEIU Local 500 contract with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s o ce and the state’s Department of Education also provided SEIU members with access to decision-making committees and the creation of a new training committee of state o cials and child care provid- ers to recommend future improvements. Workers rati ed the Maryland contract by a 30-to-1 mar- gin, but the union noted that “much remains to be done to mend a system that for too long has pushed quality in-home child care providers out of business.” e number of family child care homes in Maryland dropped by 26 percent betweenLeaders and workers in Kids First Maryland/SEIU Local 500 won a break- 1997 and 2007 due in part to the low subsidy rates and lack ofthrough contract in 2009 covering some 5,000 family child care providers. provider access to a ordable health insurance and other ben-SEIU has other child care workers in Washington State, Oregon, Illinois,Maine, and elsewhere. e ts. e 2009 contract provided vehicles to address thosewithout a corresponding increase in parent co-pays. ere problems, SEIU Local 500 leaders said.was a grievance procedure in the deal, as well as requirements After winning the rst contract, Crystal Barksdale, a childthat SEIU members be paid on time, accurately, and through care provider in Baltimore County, said: “We hung in there; it’sdirect deposit. been more than four years. We’re really teaching a great lesson e majority of parents receiving state subsidies in Mary- to the children in our care: you work hard and stick with it, andland for child care were single mothers entering the workforce you can accomplish anything.”