Denise Dowell, Co-President of the United Child Care Union in Philadelphia met with various family child care association leaders at a roundtable forum jointly sponsored by the Family Child Care Association of SF and Coleman Advocates. The purpose of this cutting-edge discussion was to determine the feasibility of, and interest in, a formal partnership between the United Child Care union and a regional network of family child care associations. Denise presented a detailed overview of her efforts to build an inclusive organization of teachers, providers, employers and unions to strengthen the child care field and promote quality care for working families.

AFSCME (American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees) has 1.3 Million members nationwide and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor  Congress of Industrial Organizations).

NUHHCE (The National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees) has 70,000 members nationwide and is the parent union of the United Child Care Union (UCCU).

In 1998, the UCCU held its founding convention, drawing some 200 participants, and its charter members voted to affiliate with NUHHCE just a few months after a groundbreaking strategy and planning roundtable, sponsored by Childspace Cooperative Development, Inc. (CCDI). CCDI is a nonprofit that develops worker-owned cooperative child care centers across the country. The charter resolution articulates a commitment to building an inclusive, industry-wide union for child care; commitment to quality jobs and quality care and education; and universal access to care. 

UCCU currently has 1,150 members (child care teachers and family child care providers) in Philadelphia, Detroit and North California. UCCU members elect delegates to serve on the Executive Committee, empowered by the members to make decisions on behalf of the membership. Although currently, there are no family child care providers in UCCU, the goal is to build an inclusive child care union of teachers and providers.

The Delaware Valley Child Care Partnership is a nonprofit association of employers and unions in the Philadelphia area. The Partnership is sponsored by Childspace Cooperative Development, Inc. The charter members of the partnership include UCCU, Childspace Management Group, and the Allegheny Child Care Academy.

The goal of the partnership is to develop resources and services to improve the business operations of providers, the qualifications and compensation of the workforce, and the continuity and quality of care for children in working families.

CCDI conducts cost of care workshops for center-based programs and family providers to educate the field about reimbursement rates, and how to draw down maximum reimbursements to ensure program support. Additionally, CCDI operates an IDA program (Individual Development Account) program to help low-income providers accumulate income to build assets. IDA's are individual savings accounts that are augmented with matching funds that can be used by low-income workers and families to pay for college tuition, major purchases, etc.
                                      UNION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Frequently asked questions by family child care providers about the partnership with the
 United Child Care Union

Q. How will decisions be made on which issues we will ask the Union to help us with? 
Will we choose one issue at a time or several to work on at the same time?
Can we (members) have input on which issues should be a priority, etc?  If so, will there be meetings or votes?

A.The ultimate decision-making power of any membership organization rests with its members, and the United Child Care Union (UCCU) is a membership organization. UCCU has established a family Child Division. The Child Care Union will work with representatives from each family child care association to create by-laws and a structure for equitable decision making. Members will elect officers and delegates to the United Child Care Union (UCCU) Family Child Care Division.  At the regional, state, and national level, UCCU will bring the Family Child Care and Center-Based Child Care Division together to set priorities based on member input, set the agenda, and choose strategies for working on the issues.  The Family Child Care Division, as a separate division, can choose to work on its own self-identified issues.

UCCU is committed to ensuring that family child care providers have an equitable voice in the decision making process. Labor laws (National Labor Relations Act) do, however impose a few restrictions for family child care providers because they're self employed individuals. Family child care providers cannot vote for national Union officers because the Union's work involves labor relations and collective bargaining between employers and employees. However, the more members we have, the stronger our collective voice, and the less likely these minor limitations will affect our ability to address the out issues. 

Q.If the California Family Child Care Association represents us on political decisions about our child care business, wouldn't the Union be duplicating the same thing?

A.The State Association has limited its involvement in political issues because of concerns over violating its tax exempt status. The State Association's role in public policy has mainly been to inform members about legislation and regulations through its Newsletters and its contact e-mail list. The Association also holds two annual conferences giving members opportunities to meet and to increase their knowledge and professionalism by participating in a variety of professional workshops, including workshops on legislation and regulation related to child care.

The Union brings resources, expertise and a large collective voice (AFSCME's 1.3 Million members nationwide). The Union will work with us to get what we need and achieve our goals at the local, state and national level.

Q.Even though we understand that an increase of $18.00 is not a big amount of money, why is the Association raising the fees?

A.The additional $18.00 a year ($1.50 per month per member) is to cover the Union dues which the Association will pay to the Union. The Union has already made a substantial investment in supporting our organizing efforts. The $1.50/mo is not intended to cover those expenses but represents a small initial investment from member providers as a good faith effort toward this new partnership.

Every organization needs money to operate. Union dues pay for staff, office, and organizational expenses. As the Union is successful in winning concrete benefits for us, dues will have to increase. However, dues increases will have to be approved by both the Family Child Care Division and UCCU. The amount of dues will reflect what the Division will have achieved and wants to achieve. A top priority is the formation of a group medical plan which is accessible AND affordable for the members. UCCU and AFSCME have begun working on this. Once the plan is available to members, the dues will have to cover the plan's administration costs.  The Union will advocate for state and federal funding to subsidize the cost of the medical coverage so it's more affordable to members. 

Q.Can I be a member of the Association and not be a member of the Union? 

A.No. The agreement between the Association and the Union requires that all members of the Association are also members of the Union. There are several reasons why exceptions cannot me made:
a.The Union is working through existing associations rather than recruiting individual providers. The Associations already have a membership base, a working structure and leadership in place. Recruiting individuals apart from the Association could potentially weaken the Associations and is costly for the Union.  Both the Associations and the Union bring unique resources making the partnership stronger.  The Union is also committed to strengthening Associations and helping them build their membership.
b.The more members in the Union, the more can be accomplished. Victories won by the union benefit all workers; it's both fair and more powerful when everyone is invested. 
c.It's much more likely that the Union will be able to put together an affordable medical benefits package with a membership that includes a large percentage of the State's licensed family child care providers. 

Q.   What are the benefits of joining the Union?

A.   The Union brings legislative expertise, resources, and visibility that most provider associations do not have. The Union's strength is in working with us on the issues that are most important to its members. Issues that family child care providers have identified as priorities include:
a.Medical benefits
b.Retirement plan
c.A licensing Ombudsman
d.Marketing our services
e.A strong collective voice, visibility and credibility with legislators
f.Substitute Registry/Pool
g.Equitable access to resources, including child care subsidies
h.Peer based, peer controlled institutions and programs.

Q.Can my employees join the Union so they can have access to medical benefits, but as members of the Union, will the Union represent them in collective bargaining to force us to pay them higher salaries or other benefits?

A.Each Association can decide to allow employees to join their Association and thereby become members of the Union. They would have the same benefits as family child care providers. The Union agreement under the Family Child Care Division explicitly states that the relationship between UCCU and the Association does not include collective bargaining on behalf of its members nor representation of members relating to grievances over worksite issues.