Bill to Unionize Early Educators and Child Care Providers Voted out of Committee

by Aimee Lawton

At Tuesday’s Republican Caucus, Ann Donahue (Northfield) reported that H.97, a bill to unionize early education and child-care providers, had been voted out of the Human Services Committee with a vote of 6-5. Most of the ‘nay’ voters felt that the bill went too far, while at least one felt that it didn’t go far enough. The bill is now in the General Housing and Military Affairs Committee, who will work out the labor relations issues.

One of the changes made to the bill was the removal of the agency fee, or the so-called “fair representation fee”. Based on this, Duncan Kilmartin (R-Newport) asked that if the bill is silent on this issue, would the union still be able to collect a fee from nonmembers? Kilmartin felt that although the fee is not mentioned in the bill, it doesn’t say that the union can’t collect it, either. He also said that because the childcare subsidiary is directed by the parent, and the parents get vouchers and choose their own provider, the proposed union’s bargaining power was misplaced.

“It’s a bizarre concept” agreed Donahue.

Donahue proposed an amendment allowing parents to be included in the alternative. She said that the bill protects parent’s rights, while it just allows the providers to bargain for the subsidy.

“Parents don’t lose anything, but don’t gain anything,” Donahue said.

Another change that was made to the bill was the removal of language that had included large childcare centers and their staff members, meaning that they will not be part of the proposed union. Donahue explained both the positive and negative aspects of this change.

“Eliminating staff from the bill is a two-edged sword,” Donahue said. She explained that the plus side to this is the idea of a union of employers and employees, which is a “very hard concept to get your head around because a union is normally for employees to bargain with employers”. Donahue said that removing any staff will help with that part.

She continued by discussing the negative aspect, saying that “virtually all testimony was about needs for better compensation and better professional education for child educators, which would be a line staff.” She said that the bill created a right to organize and bargain and would include home child care providers, and any staff that were hired by these providers.

The next step in the process is the bill’s review by the General Housing and Military Affairs Committee.