Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Child care unions in Maryland

There's a fair amount of this anti-union editorial in the Baltimore Sun that I don't understand.
A collective bargaining agreement Gov. Martin O'Malley signed with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 last week gives the union broad access to the names, addresses and, ultimately, the checkbooks of family child care providers who participate in the state's child care subsidy program.
I don't know why they were negotiating. Was there a new state law that required it? There must have been.
The Maryland agreement gives the union control over negotiating pay, time off and the training of child-care providers. It puts union representatives on all committees choosing training vendors; puts the union in charge of overseeing how early childhood dollars should be spent if a comprehensive early childhood education law like the one noted in Quebec passes here; and requires the state to deduct union dues from payments to providers that the union says are members. This means one-person providers could be subject to rules about how to take care of their own children.

 According to the editorial (the newspaper calls it an article, but that's like calling Fox News news), the family child care providers union would be able to negotiate reimbursement rates with their state APP program. It claims that is the case in Quebec and that providers there negotiated a 40% increase in payments over 4  years. When this comes up in the California legislature, the bills always say payments cannot be negotiated above legislated amounts, so the lobbying would take place there.)

It says infant care in Quebec now costs $1,250 a month (no indication if this is maximum, minimum, mean, mode, median, some percentile, or what the writer paid for her own kids) compared with California's current infant full-time monthly RMR of $1013.87 in San Francisco, $752.69 in LA, and $612 in Stanislaus. The problem with a piece like this is the person writing it has such a clear point of view that you don't know if you can trust them. There is so much intellectual dishonesty in public discourse that a clear partisan on an issue has to be distrusted (yes, including me, though I do try to be honest) until you know how they argue. Who knows what important information this person is leaving out? For example, what does Quebec have a higher cost of living than San Francisco and LA and Stanislaus? (No, it turns out. Or at least not LA.)

I'm sympathetic to unions in general. Good union jobs supported my parents and me while I was growing up, and they often are the only thing between helpless workers and rapacious owners. That said, I also recognize the rapaciousness of unions, when they get the chance. They're out for themselves, just as the robber barons were.

Family providers don't make much money compared with professional jobs, but they're not paid bad for the education and training required, which is darn close to zero. (No, I'm not talking about Title 5 programs; this is family home care. And yes, I know there are family providers who have higher education and are just doing this while their own kids are small, and others have real training in ECE and are always learning, but by and large, family home providers are doing it because they like kids and don't have the training to do anything more lucrative.

And as I said before, for a subsidized family provider in the poor part of town to be making more than 85% of all private-pay family providers in the county is pretty decent pay.

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