NY: Child Care Workers Poised to Win Bargaining Rights

Despite a veto by the governor, the New York State legislature is poised to override and enact reforms to allow day care workers to form labor unions.   The bill, A10060, sponsored by Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (a Progressive States board member) and Senator Nick Spano, would effect an estimated 52,000 day care workers in facilities subsidized by state funds, given them standing to negotiate with the state for wage increases, as well as benefits like health care, workers' compensation, paid vacation or sick days.  

Currently, such workers in New York state usually make $15,000 to $19,000 per year, a poverty wage that hurts the workers but also shortchanges the care of children, since such low wages inevitably mean high turnover and low training in the field.  Improving work conditions is the first step to creating a more professional, better trained corps of professionals engaged in early education of our children. As this policy brief by the Equal Opportunity Institute details:

From a substantial body of research, we know that a strong relationship exists between the education, experience, and compensation of early learning and care teachers and the quality of teaching and care in early learning programs...High-quality child care continued to positively predict children’s performance well into their K-12 careers.   Childcare quality was related to both basic cognitive skills (e.g., language and math) and children’s behavioral skills in the classroom (e.g., thinking/attention skills, socialization, and peer relations). Children who have been traditionally at risk of not doing well in school are affected more by the quality of childcare experiences than other children.

Even before New York acted, a number of states had taken similar steps to improve the condition of child care workers.   Last year, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed an executive order to allow 47,000 day care workers to organize into unions and have since signed their first collective bargaining agreement to raise wages and benefits.  And just last month, Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire signed HB 2353, sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew, which authorized collective bargaining for more than 10,000 child care providers.

The success of the New York bill is also seen as a boost to the clout of New York's Working Families Party, which strongly mobilized its supporters around the bill.

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