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Child Care Providers To Unionize
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The state Labor Relations Board ratified on Tuesday a prior vote to allow home day-care operators to unionize and become state employees, ignoring the governor's call for board members with union ties to recuse themselves from the issue.

The decision means Rhode Island's estimated 1,300 home child care providers can join a union, and gain state benefits. The providers are expected to vote in 60 days on whether they will join the Family Child Care Providers Union, said Joe Simoes, its lead organizer.

Gov. Don Carcieri can appeal the labor board's decision and the expected union vote, Simoes added. The governor's spokesman did not immediately return a message left at his office Tuesday.

On Monday, Carcieri said four members of the labor relations board should recuse themselves from adopting the decision or else resign, because they voted on the issue while members of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO's executive board. The vote, held last month, was 4-3 in favor of the child care providers' right to unionize. No member recused himself from Tuesday's decision.

Carcieri has claimed the decision allows the AFL-CIO to gain substantially by adding 1,300 new state workers. George Nee, secretary treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, agreed his organization would benefit, but that individual members on the panel would not. He also said two members who Carcieri wanted to recuse themselves from the decision are retired.

"You have get back and look at what conflict of interest is," Nee said. "If you look at it, it's what gives you or your family a financial interest. That's not the case (here) at all."

Nee also said the seven-member board requires three union representatives, and that Carcieri had reappointed some of them.

The governor has said he did so in an attempt to work with organized labor.

The home child-care providers are mostly women who care for up to six children in their homes, or up to eight with an assistant, Simoes said.

The state regulates home day-care centers and also subsidizes child care for parents who earn less than 225 percent of the federal poverty level -- $35,258 per year for a single mother with two children. In addition, the state mandates how much a day care can charge for subsidized children's care.

Simoes said interest is high to unionize, so day-care operators can have a unified voice over working conditions and more input on state regulations that affect them.

"They're expected to implement whatever decisions that are passed," Simoes said, of how the program works now.

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