Salted with Sharks

Poor Kids in the Spin Cycle: Deunionizing Day Care

In On and off the Apron, Politics on May 4, 2011 at 8:33 am


By Eric Pyne

OUR STATE HOUSE representative, Ray Franz (R–101st District), has introduced three bills in Lansing. The first was a law to declare June 8 “Remember the USS Liberty Day,” honoring the U.S. spy ship that was torpedoed by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War of 1967. What really happened to that ship is still a matter of controversy, but 34 American sailors were killed. Another new law that Mr. Franz has asked for would prohibit the building of wind generators offshore in Lake Michigan.

It’s the third piece of legislation, House Bill 4157, that requires deciphering. The bill states that employees paid by government subsidy are not public employees. This bill was prompted by the unionizing of daycare workers into Child Care Providers Michigan, a statewide union begun in 2006. The stated intention of the bill is to repair the injustice done by the formation of this union, and save day-care workers the 1.15% of their income that has been going to union dues. In effect, however, the bill would mean that the people who take care of Michigan’s poorest children are not eligible for membership in a public workers union. The same law would make it illegal for teachers to go on strike, although they could still protest as long as it doesn’t interfere with their teaching. The bill also “prohibits elections for, or recognition of, a public employer bargaining unit that consists of non-public employees.” In the case of day care, that means that unless day-care workers receive all their income through state funds, they cannot join a public union.  Most day-care workers take kids who receive subsidies as well as kids whose  parents pay out of pocket, so the effect of the bill would be to make it very unlikely that any day-care workers could legally join a public union.

I spoke with a couple of Elberta day-care providers about their work, and found out that day-care businesses in Elberta are not making it.  According to the Great Start Regional Resource Center, there is now no licensed day care in the whole village.  Day-care business owners report that the system for getting paid by welfare has gotten to be too much of a hassle relative to the money they get. Not only do the workers have to go online to record the hours they spend taking care of subsidized kids, but the parents have to go online too.  That can be a problem for parents who are trying to work two jobs or don’t have home internet access.

If there is one certain thing it is that our children are our brightest hope for the future. How well a nation cares for its children is a measure of that nation’s standing in the world and an indicator of its destiny. While Ray Franz is on the state GOP website congratulating day-care workers on no longer having to pay union dues, there is also a concerted media campaign to make that seem like a good thing. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP) is a multimillion-dollar-a-year effort to advance the agenda of some of Michigan’s richest people, and they are all over this issue. The teachers’ union (MEA) sued the MCPP to find out who was giving them money, but the State Appeals court threw out the case in 2004. It was the MCPP that sued the Department of Human Services to make that department stop collecting dues from day-care workers. The language in Franz’s bill might as well have been taken directly from the MCPP’s lawsuit. And that causes this reporter to wonder who really writes Franz’s legislation.

The controversy obscures the cold cash facts of how little day-care workers get paid. The State of Michigan provides the poorest parents with subsidy payments for day care. Those payments used to amount to $1.60 per child per hour. Under Governor Snyder’s new budget, that amount will be reduced to $1.35 per child per hour. That is a 16% pay cut being handed to people who are already often working below the poverty line, a poor return on getting out of paying union dues. These are the people we trust with stimulating the minds of our littlest citizens, while their parents work.

On March 1, DHS director Maura Corrigan announced the dissolution of the Michigan Home-Based Child Care Council, the interlocal that made the day-care workers union possible. She thereby nullified the day-care portion of Franz’s bill, and he was quite happy about it. A quote on his website reads: “I congratulate day care workers on recapturing the income that is rightfully theirs. Now I’m hopeful we can continue work on the legislation that will protect other private employees from going through the same circumstances as the day care workers did.” Ψ

Eric Pyne is a green contractor, community activist, and yogi. Contact him at Rep Rap explores how elected officials affect our community. Submit ideas or essays to PO Box 357, Elberta, MI 49628 or el

  1. i am sorry but $ 1.60 per hour for daycare is wrong. i watch my 2 grandboys wich are 3 and 5 and its a handfull (but i love it and wouldnt want it any other way) but i am disabled and dont receive any other income but the 1>60 per hour per child .i watch them 40 to 50 hrs per week .and the state pays for 35 hours only! my daughter is left alone to raise them and cant hardly make do on her min wage job . ether. i know are states hurting but they should pay aleast min wage per child .and this would help us and they stae in sales revenue and taxes .just my 2 cents

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