October 10, 2006
October 10, 2006
HISTORIC DAY – A groundbreaking first contract between the Oregon AFSCME-represented Child Care Providers Together (CCPT) and the state was signed Sept. 30 by agency officials and representatives of more than 4,000 child care providers. Shown here at the signing, in Salem, are (left to right) provider Marian McDonald of Portland, Council 75 Exec. Dir. Ken Allen, provider Bruce Goldman of Lake Oswego, Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and providers Regina Martinez of Ontario, Guadalupe Alvarado of Springfield, Sue Mackey of Salem and Cheryl Reece of Portland.
Photo Credit: Jessey Zepeda
A lot of people said it couldn’t be done, but 4,400 Oregon child care providers, represented by Council 75 under the banner Child Care Providers Together (CCPT)/AFSCME, got the job done! They negotiated a contract with the state that includes a “Provider Bill of Rights” and provisions to increase and expedite subsidy payments, a grievance procedure and more.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) met with the negotiating teams from Council 75 (made up of providers and staff) and the state agencies on Sept. 30 in Salem to oversee the agreement’s signing. Legislative action will be required to carry out some of its provisions. “High quality child care is a must for every working family in Oregon,” said the governor. “Safe, affordable and dependable providers will help to strengthen our economy and our families. I am so pleased that the state and AFSCME have worked together to reach this agreement.”
Ken Allen, Council 75’s executive director (and an International vice president) praised the governor’s action: “We couldn’t be more excited to be leading the nation on this front,” he says. “Our contract with the state on behalf of our providers will be a model for the country. Already we’ve had inquiries from other states about our ‘Bill of Rights’ document. This is a great day for our union, but more importantly, it’s a great day for the providers we represent.”
The contract is possible because of an executive order the governor signed on Sept. 23, 2005. It designated Council 75 as the exclusive bargaining representative for registered and certified child care providers throughout the state. That began a “meet-and-confer” process allowing the providers to negotiate a variety of critical issues with representatives of two state agencies. The CCPT/AFSCME contract emerged from that process.
“We’re going to be the first child care providers who will be working hand in hand with the state as a team,” says Regina Martinez. She and her husband run a certified child care program in Ontario, Ore., near the Oregon-Idaho border. Martinez was one of 20 providers who formed the contract bargaining team.
“We’re the lowest-paid child care providers in the United States,” she explains. “What we were asking is, ‘Please, bring us up so we’re at least getting paid the average [for providers throughout the country]. If you really value us, pay us what we’re worth.”
Oregon’s reimbursement rate for child care assistance for qualified families is the lowest of the 50 states. The contract calls on the state to do what other states have already done – add a subsidy to the federal money. The Legislature will be asked to make that request a reality.
The contract’s 17-point “Provider Bill of Rights” was one of the negotiating team’s top priorities. “When you don’t know what your self-worth is, you don’t get treated with the respect you deserve,” says Martinez, explaining the need for the document. “We wrote the Bill of Rights so they [the state agencies] would know this is how we expect them to treat us – with common courtesy.”
For more on CCPT/AFSCME, or to read the Bill of Rights, click here.
Previous: Minnesota AFSCME Member, Daughter Win Hearts and Award