Daycare Providers Unionize

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"We need to be appreciated more, because we take care of our future 'prides and joys,'" says Holt daycare provider Charlene Webster.

That's why Webster and other child care providers have created a union. They're calling for statewide changed in the way child care providers are paid and trained.

"We'd like to see higher pay. We've been making $2 an hour for the past ten years," Webster says.

Daycare providers can make as little as $9,000 a year, and they pay for supplies, car fuel and training out of their own pockets. Webster says she's about to shell out $70 for a mandatory fingerprinting.

So far, the fledgling union has nearly 40,000 members. But not everyone is signing up.

"Of course I'd like to see that state give us more money, but I'm not sure how much a union is going to do for me," says Lansing-based daycare provider Cathy Castagne. Castagne has run a daycare center out of her home for 25 years. She takes care of many low income children, but says her biggest issue is getting the state to pay her on time.

"What I've gotten [from the union] is a bunch of generalizations. They want to help us get more money, more insurance, and those are great issues. But there's a lot more to being a daycare provider than those issues," she says.

The union's bargaining committee is preparing to meet with the state-run Michigan Home-Based Childcare Council. They want a deal that will provide things like training and health insurance to the thousands of home childcare providers in Michigan. Webster fears thecurrent low pay and bad training will force qualified workers to look for other professions:

"People do day care because they love it. It'd be a shame if they dropped out. Someone's got to take care of the kids."