Rosie Kennedy's Thought on Unions

Submitted by scott on Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:58

Raising California is a SEIU led effort to gain support from the broader Early Childhood Education (ECE) world for SEIU's agenda for their ECE worker members and Family Child Care Educators (FCCEs)* in counties where they are organizing FCCEs.

​Unions are good at making negotiations based on everyone’s self interests.  So, when unions use their power to influence legislation and make deals, everybody gets something. A carrot is much more preferable than a stick. FCCE leaders need to understand the union model because it works so well.
In theory, a union is the members and the members choose their leaders who run the union, including hiring and firing executive staff.  In practice, executive staff hold much power of their own.  Struggles and conflicts do arise over the union being staff vs. member driven. When working as originally intended, a union is a democratic organization.
In their communications with their members and the “workers” that a union is trying to organize, the message is written by staff but the signatory is very often a peer worker. In a “we’re in this together” message, a family child care provider may be the signatory but the message is clearly written and disseminated by union staff.
The term “worker” is traditionally a proud term in union culture. However, FCCEs may not be at ease with the term "worker" because they are self-employed, small business owners. This is why the unionization of FCCEs caused so much confusion and resistance in the beginning.
Obviously, it is a good thing that unions have staff with expertise and resources to represent the membership. The question that FCCEs need to ask is this: "Who is setting priorities and driving the agenda, and where do FCCEs’ interests fit in the larger union agenda?"
Now, FCC unions will focus on publicly subsidized programs and a relatively narrow swath of wins (funding, payments, training, legislation).  These are all great but there is so much more to FCC.
I strongly feel that FCCEs locally, across the state and nationally will always need trusted FCCE peer organizations whose sole purpose is to connect FCCEs, inform them, listen to them, support them in their work and business, and work with others when it is mutually beneficial.
Rosie Kennedy
* Note: "FCCEs" means "Family Child Care Educators", a term rightfully emphasizing the fact the FCCH providers are educators.