The Center for the Child Care Workforce—a 24-year-old group that has worked to improve compensation and working conditions for providers of early-childhood education—is merging with the American Federation of Teachers Educational Foundation and will cease to exist as a separate entity, leaders of both organizations announced last week.
Marci Young, the deputy director of the CCW, called the change a “natural progression” for the Washington-based organization and said linking with the foundation, the nonprofit research arm of the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union, would give the group “the capacity to really influence public policy in a new way, with a unified voice.”
For the 1.2 million-member AFT, which represents some 5,000 early-childhood teachers, the addition of the CCW reflects the union’s growing emphasis on preschool education.
"[AFT President] Sandy Feldman has made it clear that she has a commitment to early care and education,” Ms. Young said, adding that the move gives members of the early-childhood field a “direct link to the K-12 workforce.”
In a speech last summer, Ms. Feldman called for “universal” preschool for all 3- and 4- year-olds, calling such an initiative “preventive medicine for children who don’t have exposure to the kinds of experiences that produce early learning and social skills that serve as building blocks for success in later grades.”
And earlier this year at the AFT’s annual convention in Las Vegas, she urged Congress to push for an extended-year kindergarten program that would give disadvantaged children four additional months in school—two months before the regular academic year starts and two months after it ends.
In recent years, a growing number of Head Start and child-care centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Minnesota have turned to unionization as a means to bargain for better pay and benefits.
And in Seattle, members of the Child Care Guild, an affiliate of the Service Employees Union International, were instrumental in getting the legislature to create a pilot “career ladder” program that provides wage increases based on a provider’s experience, level of education, and responsibility.
“If you expect people to have higher education requirements and have higher standards, you need to pay these people more than you pay parking lot attendants,” said Leslie K. Getzinger, an AFT spokeswoman.
Mark R. Ginsberg, the executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children—a Washington-based professional organization that includes teachers, administrators, and researchers—called the merger a “powerful collaboration.”
Meanwhile, the AFT’s executive council voted last week to affiliate with the Illinois Dental Hygienists Association, marking the first time any association in the dental profession has joined a labor union. The association, however, will still maintain its membership in the Chicago-based American Dental Hygienists Association.
In a press release, Debra Grant, a member of the IDHA, said the group’s affiliation with the teachers’ union “should help provide us with more legislative clout on issues we care greatly about, such as access to the poor, the elderly, and schoolchildren.”
The AFT already represents some 63,000 nurses, psychologists, and other health-care professionals working in schools, hospitals, clinics, and home-health agencies throughout the country.