November 2011

St. Cloud Times | Kelly Martini: Child Care Union Helps Kids

Published November 25, 2011
By Kelly Martini, Family Child Care Provider, Avon

I work in one of the most misunderstood professions.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been proud to be a licensed family child care provider in Avon. Each day, I welcome six children into my home, providing a safe and nurturing space for them to learn and grow.

I’m not a baby sitter. I provide educational opportunities, structured activities and nutritious meals designed to prepare each child for a lifetime of learning. At the end of the day, we’re all exhausted from a very full and exciting time together.

I love what I do and want to continue. But each day my work becomes more difficult. As working families throughout the area struggle financially, the future of my small business is threatened. When parents lose their jobs, they are unable to continue paying for the care I provide.

Important programs that help family child care providers stay in business are often the first to get cut. Elected leaders in St. Paul are often willing to listen to the voice of one of their constituents individually, but one voice hasn’t been enough. That is why I strongly support … family child care providers joining together to form a union.

Uniting our voices together will strengthen our individual voice and help ensure that we’re providing the very best for the children we serve. … Through a union, our industry will become more professional, stable and child-focused.

The less time I spend concerned with whether critical funding will be cut or trying to access training I need on my own, the more time I can spend developing curriculum and engaging activities. …

I’m not alone. This is the reality for my colleagues throughout Minnesota. We provide a high-quality and affordable alternative to more expensive child care centers. But each day more and more of us are forced to close our doors. During this economic crisis, we need to be supporting working families, not increasing their burden.

I understand that not everyone agrees with my desire to join with other providers to form a union. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The executive order signed by Gov. Mark Dayton doesn’t force anyone to join. He has called for an election. Providers who receive state subsidies will vote. Dues, membership and other issues could all be decided through votes. …

I will continue to run my business as I always have. Again, this is about the children. … I strongly encourage my colleagues to vote yes and encourage all Minnesotans to add their voices for quality early education.

This is the opinion of Kelly Martini of Avon.

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Dayton orders union vote by child care providers

By Patrick Condon
Associated Press | November 15, 2011

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton today ordered Minnesota’s home-based child care providers to vote on whether to form a union to negotiate with the state over issues ranging from subsidies for poor families to state and local regulation. Two Republican lawmakers immediately vowed to sue to prevent the vote.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union have spent six years trying to organize licensed daycare providers and contend they have majority support from eligible voters. Dayton, who has enjoyed strong union backing, said he would not take sides in the vote and believes the daycare providers should decide for themselves.

“Given there is a dispute among those childcare providers, the fairest way and the American way to resolve that dispute is through an election,” Dayton said.

The governor’s executive order sets a union authorization election for next month, with final results likely to be known by Dec. 21. It also puts the Democrat on a union-rights collision course with Republicans who control the Legislature.

Union officials said they believe 5,300 licensed providers who receive some type of child-care subsidy from the state, and who together care for about 65,000 children, would be eligible to vote. The state has about 11,000 child-care providers total, but Dayton said those that operate solely on private funds would not take part in the vote and would not be affected no matter its outcome.

He also stressed that even if a union is authorized, membership would be voluntary. The election will be conducted by the state Bureau of Mediation Services.

Eliot Seide, the leader of Minnesota’s AFSCME Council 5, told the Associated Press in September that a union would give daycare providers a stronger say in imposition of state and local regulations, the amount of subsidies given to poor families for child care, and issues including training, health care and grievances with licensing authorities. He said the union would not be involved in setting rates for parents who pay for their children’s care.

Clarissa Johnston, who has provided childcare in her home in Moundsview for the last 25 years, said a union would “empower me, and help me concentrate less on rules and regulations and more on providing care to children.”

Several childcare providers backing the union drive said parents should not expect that unionization would drive up their daycare costs.

“We’re individual small-business owners, and we choose what our rates are. That wouldn’t change,” said Melissa Smith, a daycare provider in Prior Lake.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

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We’re on Our Way to a Better Day for Child Care!

A better day for child care in Minnesota is just around the corner.

Governor Mark Dayton has signed an order giving family child care providers participating in the CCAP the ability to choose our union, SEIU Kids First Local 284. Our election is just a few weeks away and we’ll be on our way to winning a strong voice for:

  • Dependable funding, so parents can go to work and children can grow and learn;
  • CCAP improvements, working as a strong partner with the state;
  • Accurate information about parental applications; and
  • A brighter future for our child care profession.

Joining together will give us huge opportunities. It’s going to show others that we all are involved and we want to make a change.

Melissa Smith
Family Child Care Provider, Prior Lake

Many of you have been working for this moment since 2005. We’re almost there. Now is the time to join together and do the work necessary to ensure that we have a strong voice in Saint Paul.

Keep checking back here and visit us on Facebook and Twitter to stay connected to the campaign. If you have questions or would like to get involved, call 1-877-304-6042.

Governor Dayton has given us the opportunity to have a choice regarding the future of our profession. This election will allow us to say YES to a brighter future for family child care throughout Minnesota.

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New Report Highlights Minnesota’s Child Care Crisis

Working parents across Minnesota — from cities to rural areas — are facing a continuing economic crisis and a hidden child care crisis. As the recession lingers, parents struggle to find quality, affordable child care. More than 650,000 children in Minnesota require child care or supervised after school care each week. For their parents, child care services are a vital part of the infrastructure that keeps Minnesota parents in the workforce.

A new report from SEIU Kids First Minnesota Local 284 and AFSCME Child Care Providers Together chronicles the crisis facing Minnesota’s parents, children and family child care providers.

Click here to read the full report.


 
          
    
 
     
                 
              
                   
            

 
    

         
                 

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Tell Congress to Leave the Food Program Alone!

The following message is from Kelly Martini, Family Child Care provider from Avon:

You’ve probably heard a lot about something called the “super committee” lately. If not, you’ll hear a lot about it in the next few days and weeks. This is a Congressional committee made up of members of both parties, set up to try and solve our country’s budget mess.

They’re looking at making nearly $1.5 trillion in cuts and everything is on the table.

Everything.

Including the USDA Food Program family child care providers and the families we serve depend on each day. I don’t know about you, but I’m really concerned about how this could affect my business and my ability to serve healthy meals.

I just sent an email to my Member of Congress, Representative Michele Bachmann, asking her to tell her colleagues on the super-committee that nutritious meals for Minnesota’s children should remain a top priority.

Please send a quick note to yours by clicking here right now.

This is just one of many issues that SEIU Kids First could have a role in ensuring that family child care providers have a strong voice in matters affecting our industry. Through a strong network of providers, we can make sure that we have a seat at the table, advocating for our kids.

Whether we’re talking about potential cuts at the federal level or actual cuts to CCAP here in Minnesota, providers need a strong voice. Please visit www.kidsfirstminnesota.org to learn more about SEIU Kids First and get involved in our movement.

Cutting the food program is a real possibility. Please click here to send a message to your Member of Congress right now.

Thank you,

Kelly Martini
Family Child Care Provider, Avon

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MinnPost: “All of Us Ought to Be Yelling at the Top of Our Lungs”

By Cynthia Boyd | MinnPost | Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

A kid who is sick and tired and hungry and scared isn’t ready to sit and learn, child advocates say. And that’s all too often the plight of Minnesota’s poor kids.

Now members of the state’s new Children’s Cabinet, a collaborative effort with members from three state agencies, hope to help those kids in new and more effective ways.

“We have a crisis on our hands in Minnesota with the numbers of babies born into poverty,” with the number of families in poverty and the numbers of children behind in school, Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius told a gathering of about 100 child advocates this week. “All of us ought to be yelling at the top of our lungs: ‘This is unacceptable in Minnesota.”’

The state has more than 190,000 poor children — 80,000 of them living well below the poverty line — and most children of color.

Too many of them are not getting all the help they need to succeed, representatives of the state departments of education, health and human services acknowledged at a meeting called by the Minnesota Children’s Platform Coalition, whose members applaud the state’s efforts to better the welfare of its youngest citizens.

In a way, the department folks were preaching to the choir, some attendees said.

“It’s encouraging to hear the information and statistics that advocates have been using for many years being expressed by the administration,” says Marcie Jefferys, policy development director at the Children’s Defense Fund.

High poverty rates
Child advocates have long been concerned about the effects of high poverty rates and racial disparities on children, as well as the lack of collaboration and cooperation across state agencies and a lack of attention to early childhood efforts, she says.

Still, maybe now there will be some movement to change.
Cassellius ticks off sobering stats: 15 percent of Minnesota’s children live in poverty, 60 percent of them American Indian, 42 percent of African-Americans, 33 percent of Hispanics, 10 percent of Asians and 8 percent of whites. “Our achievement gap mirrors the exact same numbers,” Cassellius said.

“Our disparities are really alarming,” agreed James Koppel, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Health in an interview after the event. “Some people say it’s because the white population does so well and that’s true, we do.”

But there is a huge difference between white children and children of color in Minnesota that puts the state near the bottom, he says. “Serving children of color, compared to other states, we are doing very poorly.” You see the evidence in poverty rates and graduation rates, for instance, he says.

Studies show that the poorest children move often and generally live in unsafe environments, Koppel says. Poor environments put kids at risk of crime, asthma, lead poisoning and a host of other risk factors, he says. Such living conditions also affect families with parents working full time but at low wages.

He referred to studies that demonstrate that adverse childhood experiences affect a child’s brain development, especially under the age of 5 when a child is a sponge for knowledge. Poverty, drug use and violence in a child’s family correlate negatively to a child’s life outcomes.

Waiting lists
In other ways too state programs are failing kids. Six thousand children remain on waiting lists for child care programs, according to Erin Sullivan Sutton, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Human Services. “There is money there that is not getting to the families that need it,” Sutton said.

Authorized during the summer Legislative session, the cabinet is designed to get the three social welfare departments working more closely together for the good of children, but it is not new. Another Children’s Cabinet was set up in the early ’90s under former Gov. Arne Carlson. The state has also established an Office of Early Learning.

So far, current cabinet members report, they collaborated on the state’s Race to the Top application for federal funds. But they expect to have program improvements and other recommendations ready early next year.

What’s needed is a clear vision, Cassellius says. “We need a state compact, a big goal, something that everybody buys into…no matter who is governor, who the commissioners are,” she said. Applause rippled through the room.

These are economically “challenging” times, Koppel says but suggests, “This Children’s Cabinet can change the way we do business. We can try to get outside the silos and boxes we’ve been in, figure out how to get to the outcomes we want.”

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