HOUSE PASSES BILL ENABLING HOME-BASED CHILD CARE PROVIDERS TO UNIONIZE

By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 30, 2012….Child care providers who work out of their homes will have the ability to negotiate their payment rates from the state if they choose to join a union, under legislation passed by the House on Wednesday.

Child care providers who receive voucher payments from the state can decide to join a union – a move that several Republicans said will drive up child care costs for the state and could leave some needy families without care as the pool of money to pay for care is eaten up by higher costs.

A similar proposal failed in a 2006 ballot question. House lawmakers passed it 115-32 Wednesday.

“We have already cut the amount of day care slots, and now we are going to say the people who take those students in are going to be able to bargain those rates,” Rep. George Peterson (R-Grafton) said during debate. “And we are going to say we will have more access and better care for the children? It is counterintuitive.”

Supporters said the move will give low-wage earners a voice at the bargaining table, and create a level of professionalism that will benefit the children under their care. Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton), the bill’s chief sponsor, said the change would give child care providers a voice in improving early education. Currently, workers lack benefits and receive low reimbursement rates without any ability to negotiate, she said. Seven other states have similar laws.

“We know it is important to pay attention to the early years of a child’s life. I feel it is important to pay attention to the folks who are providing that care.” Khan said during debate on the House floor. “They are the ones who are available to help out the families in need of these services.”

She said it would enhance the quality of child care by providing support and training to at-home based workers. The legislation does not affect private day care providers or those who work in centers.

Rep. Thomas Sannicandro (D-Ashland) said the legislation (H 3986) would help bring professionalism to a group of people who care for children.

“To bring professionalism to any industry, you need to pay for that,” Sannicandro said. “These providers are working in a home-based situation; this will give them a voice to work together to improve the rate that is paid, but also the education that is provided.”

The idea caused controversy before debate even began, with Republicans leaders attempting to stop debate on the bill. They argued that legislative rules required the bill to carry a “fiscal note” from the House Ways and Means Committee outlining the potential costs of the legislation to the state. House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) said allowing certain child care workers to unionize would definitely have an impact on the annual state budget.

“This bill contemplates the unionization of a segment of the Commonwealth’s workforce to negotiate with the Commonwealth. And somehow we don’t envision that having any cost exposure to the Commonwealth?” Jones said on the House floor.

Peterson said “anyone looking at this piece of legislation can anticipate some fiscal impact on the budgetary process.”

House lawmakers pushed forward with debate, after a 117 to 32 roll call vote upholding the decision of the chair, Rep. Paul Donato (D-Medford), that it was not within his purview to decide if the bill required a fiscal note because it was part of the inner workings of a legislative committee.

Leave a Reply