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BY COLUMNISTS

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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


March 4, 2010

Unionizing Child Care Workers: Why?

Patricia A. Kelly

A column yesterday morning in The Frederick News Post by Marta Mossburg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute inspired me to look around and see what’s happening in government.

 

Per Ms. Mossburg, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley recently facilitated the unionization of child care providers who accept state subsidies for some of their clients. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will receive access to contact information on thousands of child care providers to attempt to recruit them for the union, too. The idea, supposedly, is for state supplements for child care to be increased, and for more children to be allowed into the program.

 

Self-employed people will be encouraged to unionize because they receive some state funds, and individual contact information will be given to a private organization without permission. Childcare subsidies will increase, and at least some of the increase will enter the coffers of SEIU. Somehow this will make things better for children and child care providers.

 

If asked, I’m sure the governor would assure us that this will be cost effective, even though I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the concept of that being the case, with higher payments, more clients and union dues all included in the plan.

 

Unions started in the United States in the 1840’s to stop exploitation of workers by private business owners. They have a proud history, working for decent wages, safe working conditions, reasonable working hours, protection of children. Back then, obtaining a 10-hour workday, or a 55-hour work week, was a huge achievement. We’ve all heard the true stories of women and children working 14-hour days, exposed to chemicals and inhaling textile fibers, in highly flammable sweatshops.

 

We owe a lot to valiant union organizers, several of whom were lynched, and to equally valiant workers, who courageously stood for decency.

 

In the 1940’s, 34 percent of private, non-agricultural workers were unionized, along with 10 percent of public sector employees.

 

Now that’s reversed. In 2000, seven percent of private employees were unionized, and 36 percent of public employees were. At last reckoning, this accounted for 12.4 percent of the working population, much decreased from the 1930’s, a high point for unions.

 

Now there are at least six unions for government employees: the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union, the American Postal Workers Union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the National Association of Letter Carriers, and SEIU. There’s the overall union, the treasury union, two for the postal service, one for state, county and municipal workers, and one for general service workers. That last one is SEIU.

 

I’m a little befuddled. I’ve never heard of government-run sweatshops, or 14-hour days, or government-run child exploitation. I don’t get why government employees need a union. Maybe it’s to be there to protest in case of a forced day off due to government insolvency.

 

Maybe unionization of government employees is the reason I’ve so often heard the government so highly recommended as an employer – job security, wonderful medical care, plenty of time off, great retirement.

 

I can’t imagine that this could be an area of government overspending.

 

While I was at it, I found a few more interesting stories in Maryland.

 

The Maryland Department of Labor offers “Ayuda en Espanol” to state employees.

 

Courtesy of the federally supported National Endowment for the Arts, “The Big Read” is coming to Maryland prisons. This is going to reduce recidivism and help restore reading to the heart of American Culture. Under this program, prisoners will be reading and discussing great literature in prison libraries. This will help them with critical thinking, good decision making, and job acquisition upon release.

 

It makes sense to me. Why bother with a high school diploma or learning to read when you can go right to the top?

 

Just remember. It’s only costing us a few dollars each. Just relax your muscles and pant. It will hurt a lot less that way.

 



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