Why RI Labor Board made correct decision on child care workers

Oct 9, 2013

While the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity is blasting the RI Labor Relations Board decision to move ahead with a vote on unionizing state-subsidized child care workers, it is difficult to question the labor panel’s reasoning.

Some history here:  Mike Stenhouse, ceo of the conservative Freedom & Prosperity group, asked the labor board to delay a vote until the U.S. Supreme Court decides a challenge to a somewhat similar union quest   in Illinois.

``The R.I. State Labor Relations Board’s policy  is not to entertain requests from organizations that are not a party to the case, nor have any standing in the matter,’’ wrote board administrator Robyn Golden.

This seems like a pretty reasonable decision, especially given the legal nature of standing. Conservatives such as Stenhouse and some in the mainstream media love to call this ``forced unionization’’ but of course it isn’t.

First off, Stenhouse and other opponents of  this union drive had plenty of opportunity to contest and lobby against the measure as it was working its way through the General Assembly. The Assembly approved it and the legislation was signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Secondly, no child care worker is being forced to do anything. What’s sorely missing in the right-wing and media arguments against unionization is that the workers VOTE on whether they want to join a union or not. If a majority  reject the union, there won’t be union representation.

SEIU 1199 is undertaking the drive to unionize about 680 state-subsidized child care workers, who have been denigrated as `babysitters’  in some mainstream media accounts.

What could possibly be fairer than allowing these workers the opportunity to vote on their future? Isn’t that what democracy is all about.

We should also note the hypocrisy of Mr. Stenhouse and others of his ilk on unions. Stenhouse is a fine man who spent a few years as a professional baseball player. He will never be on any baseball writer’s Cooperstown ballot, yet he receives a pension because he belonged to arguably the nation’s strongest labor union, the Major League Baseball Players Association. (The baseball players union is so strong these days that a minor-leaguer who spends ONE DAY in the majors gets healthcare for life).

We can all argue about unions, but one wonders about a ballplayer who argues that teacher pensions are too large and constantly slams attempts to unionize child-care workers, but has no problem with pampered, unionized  athletes with multi-million dollar salaries getting pensions and generous health care retirement plans.