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Stop cheating child-care pros! [US]

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Macari, Gina
Publication Date: 
4 May 2004

See text below.


Rhode Island Governor Carcieri asserts that home-based child-care providers are not state employees, and that our right to form a union will set a dangerous precedent for other groups.

Well, Governor, the state pays our checks, provides our health insurance, licenses us, regulates us, inspects us, controls our prices, and controls the number of clients we have.

We are taking care of the state's children. We are providing a service for the state. Is there any other group in the state that meets all of these requirements? Of course not.

I am one of over 1,300 licensed home-based child-care providers in Rhode Island.

Providers care for and educate over 7,500 children in Rhode Island. Because of our work, over 12,000 parents can go to their jobs knowing that their children are being cared for well. This is the most important point: Child care lets parents work.

But Governor Carcieri is trying to make it harder for parents who work. He has proposed $7 million in child-care cuts, similar to his cuts from last year.

These cuts would take away child-care subsidies for 800 parents, drop 925 kids cut of child care, raise co-payments for 2,000 parents an average of $500 a year, and cut wages for providers by a total of up to $2.5 million.

Mr. Carcieri's own director of the Department of Human Services, Jay Lindgren, told the House Finance Committee: "Of the nearly 800 people who would lose child care under Governor Carcieri's plan, we believe 10 percent may go back on [welfare] as a result of losing child care."

The governor's plan would put more people on welfare. Governor, why are you pushing down those who need a hand up? That's not the American way.

This is why we are organizing a union. We want a voice in protecting and improving our child-care system.

We are organizing a union for the respect that we deserve: We are overworked and underpaid. We are paid only once a month, earn no overtime, vacation, or disability, and are not eligible for unemployment.

I work 12 hours a day, starting at 6:15 a.m. and ending at 6:15 p.m. For the 60 hours that I work each week, I receive $450, after subtracting payments for two assistants, food for three meals a day, toys, supplies, and utility costs.

This is equal to $7.50 an hour, which is more than the $2.76 an hour that the Day Care Justice Co-op reported that the average home- based child-care provider makes. It is a sad story when the people who care for 7,500 of Rhode Island's children earn less than the people who pick up your garbage. Child-care providers are not babysitters; we are professionals, demanding the respect that we deserve.

Clearly, Governor Carcieri is out of touch with hard-working parents. By fighting our basic right to form a union and by slashing the child-care budget, the governor is breaking the ladder between poverty and opportunity for a generation of children and working parents.

Rhode Island taxpayers cannot afford to do that. And child-care providers and working parents will fight to make sure that this doesn't happen. Our union of providers will protect our kids -- because if we don't stand up for our children, then we don't stand for much.

* Gina Macari, of Scituate, is a member of the Family Child Care Providers Union of District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union.

- reprinted from the Providence Journal