The governors of Kansas and Pennsylvania on Thursday, July 20, signed executive orders that grant collective bargaining rights to thousands of state-regulated child care providers. For the workers, the wins mean a strong voice. For the kids in their care, the wins mean both consistent quality care and early childhood education.
The order signed by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) applies to 7,000 registered and licensed providers. Their union, Child Care Providers Together Kansas/AFSCME, has just been certified to represent them. In Pennsylvania, some 4,000 family child care providers who are regulated by the state now have collective bargaining rights thanks to an order signed by Gov. Ed Rendell (D).
It has been an exciting six-plus months for the Kansas providers, whose campaign to demonstrate that a majority supported forming a union with AFSCME was launched in January. They will now seek approval of a "bill of rights" that calls for them to be treated with respect as both child development professionals and small business owners.
"For too long our voice has been silenced at the Capitol," says provider Regina Parsons of Hutchinson, Kan. "With CCPT Kansas/AFSCME, we will have the political clout that we deserve."
Providers will have an opportunity to vote to allow the union to represent them this fall. Prospects for a better future are already growing for these providers: After tough budget fights this year, the governor's proposals for early childhood education (which help finance provider services) have been fully funded.
Providers in Pennsylvania are excited about the future, not only because they have won collective bargaining rights, but because they can build strength through their own union.
"We have not had a strong voice to address the problems with our state's child care system," says provider Andrea Sheeder of Clearfield County, Pa. "Now we have an opportunity to unite by voting 'YES' in the upcoming child care election so we can begin to work on real solutions that will help make child care a quality job."
Kansas and Pennsylvania join a growing list of states where child care providers are organizing unions with AFSCME, including New York, California, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Visit www.uccunion.org for more information.