Turchin: Children and families would benefit from child-care provider union

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Tammy Turchin, owner and director of Adventures of Young Minds, a child-care center in Colchester.

I am the owner and director for Adventures of Young Minds in Colchester and have worked as a child-care provider for 25 years. Every day, my colleagues and I provide early education services to support children and families. Parents put a lot of trust in us and give us the responsibility to care for, and educate, their children. We set the foundation for a lifetime of learning and social interactions. We help to set the foundation for kindergarten and beyond.

Our primary concern is, and has always been, the children and families we serve.

I support the right to form a union. It is unfortunate that our efforts have been misconstrued and misrepresented. I would like to set the record straight:

• Our primary concern is, and has always been, the children and families we serve.

• Forming a union will not in any way detract from the services we provide; on the contrary, it will improve our services.

• Child-care providers are the experts in this field; joining together to express our collective voices is the best way to share our knowledge about early education.

• There are no more qualified people than child-care providers to be at the table with the state when early education issues are being decided and implemented.

• We have a 40 percent turnover rate in our profession; we must develop policies to lower that number so that we can attract and retain a qualified and stable workforce.

Our efforts to organize over the past few years have already built committees of early educators in every county across Vermont. We have held over 200 informational meetings in over 73 towns and over 30 trainings for professional development across the state. All of this has served to strengthen our industry.

Children and families need stability in the early education industry. A union will give us the tools to speak with one voice. It will allow us to grow, flourish and deliver even more to Vermont families. We will be able to come together to further support each other, train each other, and build confidence in our own futures – all with the goal of improving the quality of child care in Vermont.

Forming a union is just common sense, and common sense makes the best kind of policy.

Comments

  1. Thomas Feerick :

    Hi, I think it is crazy to involve a union with the childcare industry. The cost of a union and the added benifits of the employees would result in a situation where it will become un-affortable for parents to go to work. That would create a major negative impact on the local economy. Do not respond that it will not increase costs. The word union is defined as a cost to everyone involved even the employees. All this will have to passed down to the customers. There are plenty of daycare provider groups out there that have been voiceing their concerns just fine. We do not need any union reps involved getting fat on everyones money. I own a 50 kid center and I do not want to unionize.

  2. Ann Raynolds :

    Having been an Early Essential Educator and director of a large 2-county day care/Head Start/Special Education program for six years, I can attest to the need for a stable system, one where early educators are paid living wages with benefits. While family day care is marvelous — when it is — for very young children under three, a quality, well-staffed day care center is essential for many working parents.
    If providers today believe they need a union to get this messsge out, and clearly in the 30 years since I had this job the message has NOT been heard at the highest level of our citizenry or government, I support this effort to organize. Neurobiologically a child’s primary caregivers in these early years should be as consistent as possible and know they are essential to the development of the early neural pathways which will determine much of the child’s emotional life from this point forward. An older child can survive one year with an inadequately nurturing teacher, a very young child should not endure one month with a distracted, depressed or anxious caregiver.

  3. Jamal Kheiry :

    Ms. Turchin,

    In past columns on this issue, the discussion has centered around the fact that unionization would be *required* of childcare providers, which is why the effort involves the legislature. However, your column appears to characterize it as a purely voluntary activity, by calling it the “right” to form a union.

    Certainly, if that’s all it is, then that’s great; nobody is forced to exercise a “right.” But if forming a union would essentially require everyone to join it in order to ply their trade, then coercion is at the heart of the unionization effort, and your column has failed to mention it.

  4. Cynthia Browning :

    The writer of this column does not make clear what I believe to be the case: that this “union” is not about unionizing all the workers a large child care centers, it is about a union of BUSINESS OWNERS to bargain with the state, when they are VENDORS who provide services to private families that are subsidized and regulated by the state. This makes no sense.

    If I am wrong about this please correct me, but when the child care unionization bill came to the House floor in 2011, this was my understanding of it.

    It is my impression that workers at large child care facilities already have the right to unionize if they so choose.

    I would urge these providers to seek another way to work with the legislature to realize the improvements that they see as necessary for their important role in educating Vermont children.

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, Arlington

    • Patrick Cashman :

      Ms. Browning,
      A collusion of business owners to coordinate pricing is not a union, it is actually a cartel.

  5. Amie Choiniere :

    Child Care providers are independent and set their own rates. We do not need a union to do this. As Rep. Browning stated we are vendors to the state and have private contracts with our families. We own our own businesses and set our own tuition rates.

    There are just as many quality in home programs as there are quality center’s. There are also as many bad in both groups. Having a union holds no merit on it. More licensors, continuing education requirements, mentoring programs, grants and support services are what is needed. Money paid for tuition holds no bearing on quality of care.

    Quality standards have already been initiated by the state and there is a strong enough group of professionals to continue to build upon those programs for quality.

    We are (hopefully) all in it for the same reasons, quality affordable care for Vermont’s families. We do not need a union to help with this cause. Let’s spend the time, energy and money and securing these quality factors and working with our legislators as we all have been through this fight, whether for or against the union. That alone shows that we have an independent voice to fight, without the additional red tape or loss or rights to speak out.

  6. Deb Thayer :

    I don’t believe that a union will allow all childcare providers to speak with one voice nor will it allow the industry to have livable wages with benefits. If indeed the supporters of this union believe that childcare providers should be able to bargain with the state for increases in subsidys than a union is the wrong way to go!

    I am a small business owner, I serve 6 families in my home daycare. I have an assistant, and together we care for 8 children,4 part time, and 4 fulltime. I do not need a union to speak for me or go to the state to bargain for me. I am not a worker trying to get rights or have someone fight for me. I know the names of several agencies where I can get any questions I need answered,I know the name of my local city councilors, my State Senators and my House Reps. If I need information I can call, write or email them.

    I however, do not have a problem with my assistant joining a proposed union to help her negotiate benefits and a liveable wage as an individual.But, as a small business owner I do not need to be told how to bargain for myself!I understand you to be correct Rep. Browning, and as a vendor providing and being compensated for a service, I do not feel that a union is not needed.

    As a provider,teacher, business owner involved in the care of young children for over 25 years, I can honestly say that even one day in the care of someone that is not a nurturing and loving person and is inadequate, is too much regardless of the age!

  7. Kay Curtis :

    I have been working in this profession for 12 years. During this time I have watched women who are great with children with excellent programs make a choice to get out of the profession. Why I ask myself are we loosing these great teachers?

    As Early Educators we know when we choose this work that hours will be long, and the work hard. We know we will be meeting the needs of Vermont families in crisis. And we will be exposed to colds and flu. We know that early educators make and average of $9.97 per hour.

    NONE of this deterred me.
    What I DID NOT KNOW OR TAKE ON:

    Dealing with abrupt changes in how we are compensated for our time. I am referring to STARS incentives being used as a political football in Montpelier.

    Decisions being made by the State without regard to the workability in our programs. A regulation division which can be dysfunctional.

    Needing to occasionally grant families in need a waiver on care because our subsidy system is not adressing their needs.

    Being called and treated like what I do is not a skilled profession by politicians.

    Feeling that unless we watch the decision makers that some new terrible decision will close our programs.

    I see and know that the only way we can address what is broken is by building power as a Union and having a seat at the table.

    Why do I know this? Because since we have begun this campaign we are being invited to the table. Will this stop if we stop? YES!

  8. I entirely agree with Tammy Turchin, and am also the Director of a small (non-profit) Child Care & Early Education center in Brattleboro.

    No one is asking for higher wages! Unionizing is a vehicle for strengthening our voice as a profession, and for requiring that voice to be heard. Without a union, we are considered little more than a suggestion box. And for the record, many providers participate in several groups and organizations related to the field, but none are a unified voice for providers.

    We are all in this for the children- Centers and Home Providers alike. There is more we have in common, more to share with each other and the Powers That Be in the Statehouse, than any one can do alone.

    Children learn and grow best by working together- that is what we as providers are doing by working for a union!

  9. Emily Pryer :

    For the last seven years, I have been a registered home provider in Bradford, VT. In the fall of 2009, when we began an incredible journey to building our union, we had— NO VOICE. We were treated as a suggestion box, not as partners in the decision making process. We were not recognized as EARLY EDUCATORS, but as “babysitters.”
    Home providers such as myself, often felt isolated and disconnected from our colleagues— our union has helped and continues to help decrease our sense of isolation. The early education profession has become strong because of the many opportunities to network through the efforts in building our union.

  10. Melanie Zinn :

    Everyone has an opinion; made clear by those comments posted previous to mine. I believe making opinions heard and working collaboratively with, not only other early educators (not just limited to providers), and families, but also with the State, is what the idea of this union is all about.
    I have taught in the public school system (with unions in place) for the past 7 years. More recently I have opened my own early learning program in my home. If early education is as important as we know it to be, then why shouldn’t early educators form a union similar to that of public school teachers? I realize there are vast differences between these professional fields and their unions, but I also feel it is about time the people (I being one of them now) who educate our young children and provide them with the tools for later success in our public school systems, be allowed a voice, as well.
    Having spoken with many people involved in this process, both for and against the idea of this union, I don’t believe any of us are under the impression that we will end up rich from forming a union. The only thing many of us care about are the rich experiences we gain from our children and families. Forming a union could be a way to further help and support these families, by providing us with positive support and the right to feel like we are professionals with a voice. I’d like to think that although I no longer teach within the public school system, having obtained a Master’s in Education, my job educating six children in my home is just as important as educating twenty in a classroom setting, and that my voice shouldn’t be lost because I work alone now!

  11. Joyce Wheeler :

    For the last 44 years, I have been a licensed home childcare provider in East Montpelier. The families I serve have children ages 0-5. In the 44 years I have been in business, my profession has gone through several changes mandated by the state, with little to no input from the providers, that has affected me directly. For example, several years ago, the State changed the regulations to only allow 2 children under 2 years old. This made a huge impact on families. Now, we see a lack of available infant and toddler care for working families. These changes were done without asking the providers working in the field how this would affect our businesses and the families we serve.

    We are going to continue to work for the right to organize our union–the same right that teachers, nurses and firefighters have. We need our union, so our profession will grow and continue to educate children. You need our union, so every working family has quality, affordable child care options.

  12. Heather Hassett :

    I have been an early educator for over 27 years. I support the right to form a union. I have worked in small and large centers and have been associated with both public school and Head-Start initiatives. I have had my own Registered Home for the last 16 years serving both typical and special needs children and families. In all those years, I have never once met an early educator who was “getting rich” from doing childcare. I have, however seen many providers struggle to pay the most basic bills, such as electric and liability insurance, on a weekly basis in order to keep their businesses running. They use their own meager pay to buy items such as socks and mittens for children in their care and provide amazing educational and social-emotional development opportunities with next to no resources. This adds a layer of undo stress on their businesses, their families, and their well-being. The 40 percent turnover rate in our profession is related to that stress – lack of finacial security, long hours, and no medical or retirement benefits are most-often cited as the reason for long-time providers leaving the field.
    The other day, I saw a hiring flier for a local grocery store. The starting pay is $11.35/hr which is much higher than my pay of $10 per hour – and that is before my operating expenses (even with my 27 years of experience!) The grocery store offers a full benefit package-(health insurance, paid breaks, training, accrued vacation/sick days, regular performance reviews, pay increases). That is a job where an employee punches a time clock, does the job with a reasonable expectation of stability, punches out when the shift is over, and receives pay on time and in full.
    We need to act now with this legislation, which simply provides the right to unionize and does not force anyone to join a union. We can either continue to keep our heads in the sand with regard to the long term viability of Vermont’s Early Education system as it stands.—- or we can take the steps necessary to stabilize the work force to improve the quality of childcare in Vermont.

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