Freedom Foundation

Are childcare workers being exploited?

In Harris v. Quinn (2014) the United States Supreme Court ruled forcefully against what can only be characterized as an (up-to-then) legal racketeering scheme overseen by the nation’s most powerful public-sector unions.

But the long-term effect of allowing a well-connected special interest group to siphon a percentage of government subsidies used to assist the most vulnerable among us is still very much alive.

Since 2006, the Service Employees International Union 925 (SEIU) has been the exclusive bargaining representative in Washington for all licensed childcare providers as well as Friends Family and Neighbors (FFNs).

How did this happen?

With regular access to a complete and up-to-date list provided willingly from the state, SEIU was able to harangue 22.7 percent of Washington family childcare providers into supporting being represented by SEIU 925.

Sadly, however, that was all it took since only 25 percent of the total bargaining unit participated in an election most never knew took place.

Why did this happen?

Nationally, SEIU saw the billions of dollars being set aside to compensate low-income Americans providing home childcare for a loved one and hatched a scheme to divert as many of those dollars as possible into its coffers. With the support of less than a quarter of the caregivers eligible to vote in this one-time-only election, SEIU proceeded to confiscate dues from 100 percent of the bargaining unit.

What does the union do?

The Department of Early Learning regulates childcare and does random inspections of the homes where subsidized childcare is being provided. Meanwhile, the state offers assistance to low-income individuals to help with childcare. The state is also playing an active role in ensuring the safety and protection of the children under the care of these subsidies.

Under this arrangement, the union is essentially a middleman that does nothing but collect the money. In fact, it doesn’t even do that. The State of Washington deducts dues from the paychecks of thousands of childcare providers and passes it along to the union – in many cases unbeknownst to the workers.

Many childcare providers have been infuriated with SEIU 925 for not actively lobbying against, and in some cases actively supporting legislation and proposed regulations they believe will hurt childcare providers.

In fact, a group of providers recently got together on a plan they have been working on for several years: organizing a new union to represent Washington childcare providers.

For several months, child care providers across Washington worked to gather signatures calling for an election to vote on who will represent them. The options included:

  1. The newly-formed Pacific Northwest Child Care Association (PNWCCA);
  2. SEIU 925; or,
  3. No union at all.

SEIU is desperate to prevent childcare providers from being able to hold an election, but why? Childcare providers have not had an election since they were formed in 2006.

Instead of supporting their members’ right to organize and vote, however, SEIU sent mailers to childcare providers urging them “Do NOT sign their petition if they come to your door.”

The union also sent operatives door-to-door asking that providers pledge not to sign a card calling for an election.

What is SEIU afraid of?

Union leaders have good reason to be concerned. Currently, SEIU 925’s membership has dropped to less than 35 percent of all publicly compensated home childcare providers. More than 65 percent of childcare providers have either refused to sign a membership card or have opted out of SEIU 925 since 2014.

SEIU routinely neglects to provide childcare providers with shop stewards, legal counsel or assistance regarding workplace grievances. Instead, its staffers spend their time meddling in presidential politics and hyper-partisan, divisive social issues that have driven a wedge between its members.

But is SEIU 925 really worried about an election?

Unlike 11 years ago when SEIU only had to request a list of childcare workers from the state, today it is impossible for those who wish to organize to access contact information for these workers. SEIU has a monopoly on the ability to communicate with them.

In 2015 SEIU 925 separately sued the Freedom Foundation and Shannon Benn, a licensed child care provider who had been active for years sending a newsletter to other child care providers about upcoming legislation and regulations that would affect their businesses.

SEIU 925 did not want anyone to have the ability to inform childcare providers about their constitutional rights, particularly regarding the recent 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The Freedom Foundation represented Spokane resident Shannon Benn and won. Shannon was able to attain an updated list of her fellow childcare providers contact info so she could continue producing and distributing her newsletter.

Of course, in that court order, Shannon was gagged from sharing those public records, and more specifically she was gagged from sharing them with the Freedom Foundation.

Later, the Freedom Foundation also won the right to access to public records that provide the ability to communicate information about childcare providers rights to providers.

Those victories were short-lived, however.

In 2016, SEIU self-funded one of the most deceptive ballot initiative in history, I-1501. This measure amended the public records laws to specifically exempt partial-public employees – those who fell under the Harris v. Quinn ruling – from public record requests.

Every major paper in the state of Washington came out against the initiative, as did many national publications.

National Review wrote:

The measure’s sole sponsor, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is brazenly attempting to deceive voters and misuse the statewide initiative process.

It is now logistically impossible for childcare providers to ever decertify their union. SEIU will represent childcare providers as long as the government protects its monopoly.

Union members have been barred from having the ability to communicate with one another. No master list of the bargaining unit is available, and there is no possible way for one provider to contact another.

Childcare providers are worse off than they were before SEIU came along. Now they’re forced to be represented by a union that ignores their interests.

Shame on SEIU, and shame on the Washington State Legislature for allowing this racketeering scheme to continue long after the Supreme Court of the United States of America recognized it as such.

But the battle is not over.

Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit to overturn I-1501.