Major Issues With Question #3:
1. FCC providers are business owners, not employees – many FCC providers are employers of assistant teachers posing complex issues for a union designed for employees. An association of providers would be a more appropriate bargaining entity. FCC providers can and do currently affect change through associations without this legislation, however, FCC does need much greater influence. This legislation was tailored specifically for, and favors the “employee organization” that pushed it through (SEIU) with little or no FCC input.
2. FCC providers wish to retain their right to choose an organization which best meets their needs. This legislation requires one exclusive bargaining entity and mandates 2 years before it could be removed. FCC providers should have the right to choose whether they wish to belong to a collective bargaining entity, and which organization they belong to. It could be nearly impossible to decertify or get rid of SEIU if they become the exclusive representative and under perform. They are a very large organization that is willing to fight for a new national membership base of FCC providers.
3. The timing for implementation of this legislation allows little time for an alternative FCC lead and owned organization that could better serve FCC needs. SEIU has been gathering signature cards in preparation for pushing this legislation through – many FCC providers have complained about SEIU’s high pressure card signing tactics. FCC providers want a choice.
4. If a Union becomes the exclusive bargaining agency it is very likely that all costs (FCC provider costs, taxpayer costs, and costs to the families providers serve) would increase to support the Union. An organization lead and owned by FCC providers would likely place funding back into resources and benefits for the FCC providers and families they serve.
The “in favor” argument on the voter pamphlet is deserving of the included disclaimer – “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts…does not certify the truth or accuracy of any statement made in these arguments.” This legislation is good for SEIU! However, this legislation could negatively effect FCC providers and the children they serve. FCC would have to foot the bill and be subject to additional labor organizing laws. There are about 12,000 licensed and 8,000 active FCC programs state wide who could be required to pay union dues whether they wanted to be in the union or not, with no guarantee of additional benefits, and no way out. This legislation could also significantly reduce the number of FCC programs willing to accept subsidized funding to those that wish to belong to a union. Child care costs would almost surely increase.
This legislation also affects “Kith & Kin” which are licensed exempt child care arrangements for subsidized care of relatives – I am not familiar enough with “Kith & Kin” to speak on their behalf.
Some Historical Context: A state-wide cooperative association of FCC providers AFCCA (of which I am a member) has existed for about 5 years and is growing in membership and influence. It originated from a similar organization The FCC Alliance which won Large Family Child Care licence rights for FCC providers allowing 10 children with 2 teachers in a home setting. SEIU Local 888 leaders came to the AFCCA board about 2 years ago asking for our membership. SEIU 888 had just formed and knew little about FCC. AFCCA was willing to talk and negotiate some type of partnership with SEIU if it would benefit providers, however, the talks ended and we were told by ACORN (an SEIU affiliate) to join the union or loose our organizational funding. We chose to be independent and have continued to operate essentially with volunteer services and donations. Advocacy and services are strongly linked for FCC with limited funding sources. FCC providers need to own the organizing entity to provide both services and advocacy from any revenue produced from dues. I feel strongly that FCC leadership, including control of funding are essential for a strong FCC voice. SEIU is pushing for this legislation which would significantly enhance their membership base nation wide and require providers to fund a large organization which would likely decrease overall available funding for services to children. This could easily decrease the actual leadership and control that FCC providers have built as it is a top down strategy by an organization that knows little about FCC. The natural process of building grass roots effort for change takes time- I am concerned that this may dismantle those efforts at great cost.
The Department of Early Education & Care (EEC) was also formed recently merging OCCS and part of DOE. EEC is charged with creating a more universally available quality preschool system. There is currently no seat reserved on the EEC Board for FCC providers- but one seat that can be filled with either a FCC provider or a parent (a parent was appointed in spite of the fact that many FCC representatives applied, and several other board members are parents.) FCC voucher subsidy rates have lagged far behind other types of care growing even farther behind with the implementation of straight percentage rate increases the last two years. Current rates for FCC are $29.80/day/infant in comparison with $51.62/day/infant in centers. Rates for preschool children are $26.35/child/day for FCC and $34.76 for Centers. These lower rates are compounded by lower ratios in FCC of 2 adults to 10 children as opposed to 2 adults to 20 children in centers. FCC not only makes less /child, but also can serve half as many preschool children per adult. FCC’s superior group sizes, adult to child ratios and continuity of care allow for very high quality programs. FCC is rewarded with disgracefully low rates which have put many programs out of business. Regulation changes also have little or no input from FCC providers until time for public comment. A system change is needed to include FCC providers in the process, yet, the voting booth this November is not the time & place for these decisions to be made. Though FCC desperately needs representation and significant rate increases it is critical that this be an effort truly lead by FCC providers.
My apologies for posting some of this elsewhere first as a “comment” as I did not know the posting procedure. I am posting this again as it is a critical and fairly complex issue that I hope will get increased exposure.