The issue of whether childcare workers should be able to form unions has generated considerable debate in recent years. Those who support the rights of these workers to form unions and bargain collectively emphasize the low pay and difficult environments childcare providers often face. Unions help to stabilize conditions, improve job satisfaction, and raise wages to appropriate levels—all of which are vital to providing the best possible care for children.
Unfortunately, very little is known about the tangible differences unions make in the lives of childcare providers. But a new study from the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) helps to shed light on the value unions provide to an often-neglected and voiceless group of workers.
The report, “Training Makes a Difference,” analyzes the impact of training initiatives on skills, opportunities, and satisfaction for 6,200 “family, friend and neighbor” (FFN) childcare providers in the state of Washington. These training initiatives were brought about by a collective bargaining agreement between the state and SEIU Local 925, the union that represents FFN childcare providers. Respondents said that the training positively impacted their knowledge and skill levels, increased professional connections with other providers, and led to improved job satisfaction. In addition, over 90 percent of the workers surveyed felt that the union played a significant role in making training opportunities available and that fewer training opportunities would have been available without collective bargaining.
It goes without saying that the more satisfied individuals are with their work, the more likely they are to perform to the best of their abilities. In the context of caring for children, it is crucial that providers have the requisite skills, and also the appropriate disposition, to give these children the very best care. Today’s report from EOI indicates that unions can play a major role in ensuring that this is the case.