ROCHESTER — CSEA/VOICE Local 100A activist Armett Barnes knows the value of having a union and is not shy about sharing that fact.
She was recently featured in the “Local Leader Spotlight” of The Grassroots Movement for Child Care websites and publications. The movement brings together diverse national organizations to expand access to affordable child care and offer support for early educators.
In most states across the country, child care providers struggle alone, without the support of a large advocacy organization or a union, like home-based child care providers have here in New York.
The Washington Post recently reported that our country’s entire child care system is at “risk of collapse” from the stress of the pandemic. Even with a safety net, child care programs of all types are being stressed to their limits, with many running far below capacity or even shutting down altogether.
This is the basis of Barnes’ passion for spreading the good word about the union. In New York, with the option of a union, providers like Barnes enjoy protections and programs that non-union providers simply don’t have.
The ongoing opportunities and important information about compliance, regulations and safety and health provided by CSEA supports providers in this state. The additional time that is needed to support the health and safety of children through cleaning and sanitizing, meal preparation, virtual learning responsibilities and more have increased dramatically.
“It is more important than ever that we have a union to work through and to have work for us,” Barnes said.
Since certification in 2007, CSEA/VOICE successfully negotiated three contracts with New York State and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), which provide benefits like no cost dental and vision insurance, professional development funds that cover mandatory training costs, first aid/CPR, program grants and health insurance rebates, to name a few.
Ten years ago, Barnes left a career in direct care supporting individuals with developmental disabilities to educate young children with the hope in mind that she could continue to make a difference in her work. As the owner of Armett’s Care and Family Daycare Inc., in Rochester, she has been able to have a big impact in her local community.
“I earned my associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and my program is nationally accredited through the National Association for Family Child Care Providers (NAFCC). All of this was achieved through the funding from my union, CSEA/VOICE. Access to a quality education is vital to providing quality child care programming,” Barnes said in The Grassroots Movement for child care publication.
She also stressed the fact that child care is often referred to as the “invisible workforce.” Often unrecognized by our country, our legislators and policy makers, there is no denying child care is essential.
Without child care providers, parents cannot go to work and the general workforce is weakened. Without parents going to work, child care providers can’t keep their programs afloat.
The harsh reality of the pandemic is that it does not discriminate. New York providers are experiencing deep hardship despite the support from the union. Many programs have been forced to close as parents lose jobs or work remotely. CSEA continues to fight for child care programs for parents and providers at all levels of government, advocating for relief programs like state and local aid and mitigating job loss and helping members navigate the new landscape.
“We have to use the voice we have and the framework of the union to advocate for all of New York’s working families,” Barnes said. “I am so proud of our union and pledge to continue this work until every child has access to a quality early education through a quality program. Advocating for the families we care for and for our profession is vital to the work we do. We all must do what we can, to help our communities through this pandemic.”
— Jill Asencio