Kansas Liberty: 28 July 2010
Taxpayer money used to fund unions in Kansas and grow union membership
SRS gives $1.5 million taxpayer money to union
As first reported by NBC Action News, the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has earmarked $1.5 million in federal stimulus dollars to be allocated to a controversial union. The taxpayer dollars are being awarded to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Child Care Providers Together Union, which was given bargaining rights over Kansas day-care facilities through an executive order signed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
According to SRS, the AFSCME/CCPT union is one of 16 groups that have been funded through a one-time $18.415 million federal stimulus grant. So far the union has been allocated $761,192 of the funding. The union will receive the remainder in two installments; $380,596 on Aug. 15, 2010 and $380,596 on Jan. 15, 2011.
The order, signed by Sebelius in 2007 and put into effect in 2009, provides the union with the power of being the “exclusive majority representative” of all day-care homes in the state. The order requires the Kansas Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to work together with the union for monitoring child-care providers, fees, training, licensure and registration requirements in addition to the reimbursement rates for subsidized care.
Steve Mock, director of communications with SRS, said that Secretary of SRS Don Jordan decided to allocate the money to the Child Care Providers Together union after consulting with SRS Child Care staff and KDHE Licensing staff. Mock said that state statutes provide Jordan with the authority to provide the funds.
“CCPT was selected since they represent and work with home-based providers,” Mock told Kansas Liberty. “Other groups are more connected with center-based providers. They were best situated to fulfill the role assigned.”
Jordan was appointed to his position by Sebelius.
Vice-chair of the social services budget, Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, was not aware that SRS had provided the union with stimulus dollars and questioned how financially fueling a union would help the economy.
“I don’t want to see government money going to unions,” Rhoades told Kansas Liberty. “I want to know what they are doing with that money and how it is stimulating our economy.”
Rhoades said legislators have had a difficult time getting answers from Jordan on funding decisions in the past.
“SRS needs reform,” Rhoades said. “There seems to be a lot of money that doesn’t really get to the people.”
In the 2010 session, legislators expanded the power of the Child Care Providers through passing a bill that increases the state’s regulations over day-care facilities. While the bill, known as Lexie’s Law, was said to be aimed at increasing safety measures inside day-care homes, it also required KDHE to create an online searchable database of day-care homes across the state. President of the Kansas chapter of the AFSCME/CCPT union admitted to Kansas Liberty news in June that the union was planning to use this database to solicit membership.
The first stop for the day-care bill was the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. A member of the committee, Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said that during deliberations the union was briefly brought up, but Kelsey said that for the most part details surrounding the union and its involvement with Kansas day-cares were not thoroughly discussed. Kelsey said that SRS tried to sidestep the issue during meetings.
“The chairman of the committee allowed them to just brush over it,” Kelsey told Kansas Liberty.
Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, is the chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. Barnett did not respond Kansas Liberty’s request for comment. Barnett had argued during debate on the Senate floor that unionization was not related to the bill, although it is clear now they were obviously connected.
Kelsey said the fact that SRS was allocated $1.5 million in federal money was never brought up during the committee meetings. Kelsey referred to the decision to provide the union with money during a time in which many state agencies were underfunded as “a disgrace.”
Mock said there was “no particular reason” that the Legislature was not notified of the $1.5 million allocation during committee meetings in the 2010 session.
“SRS has hundreds of contracts, very few of which are ever discussed specifically in legislative hearings,” Mock said. “When asked, we provided full and complete responses.”
Kelsey and Rhoades both commented they thought at the national level the Democratic administration was trying to work toward increased unionization, especially within the social services sector.
“There is a push for more unionization nationally,” Rhoades said. “And the unions are already breaking our backs in a lot of ways.”
The National Women’s Law Center, an abortion advocacy left-wing group, has published two reports focused on “getting organized” to unionize child-care providers. The National Women’s Law Center report says unionizing day-care homes will allow providers to “negotiate with the state for better compensation.”
According to the June 2010 report, Kansas is one of 14 states which now allow unionizing of day-care homes.
Efforts to allow unions to negotiate with the state on behalf of day-care home have been denied in California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In these states, bills that would allow the unionization of day-care homes had passed the state legislature, but then were vetoed.
Kansas and Iowa are the only two states on the list who are classified as “right to work states,” which is law that allows employees to determine whether or not they want to support or join a union. Kansas’ right-to-work law says that state employees are prohibited to “encourage…membership in any professional employees’ organization.”
Nick Cote, deputy legal information director at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said that unions are able to enter into agreements, like the one reached in Kansas, because Right to Work laws do not ban so-called "exclusive” bargaining.
“A Right to Work law ensures that workers cannot be compelled as a condition of employment to join or pay dues or fees to a union,” Cote told Kansas Liberty. “Monopoly bargaining arrangements, even in Right to Work states like Kansas, deprive independent-minded workers of their right to bargain for themselves.”
The agreement signed between KDHE, SRS, and AFSCME/CCPT, runs from 2009-2012. A spokesperson for Sen. Sam Brownback, the leading gubernatorial candidate, would not comment on whether or not Brownback would work to renew the contract or allow it to lapse.
National Women’s Law Center “Getting Organized” report
Kansas Liberty articles on unions: