AFSCME’s efforts on behalf of expanded programs for working families go back nearly 30 years. AFSCME has been a leading advocate for comprehensive national child care legislation, national child care quality standards and family and medical leave.
While these federal efforts resulted in the passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program in 1990, which helps eligible parents pay for child care, and the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, which provides unpaid, job-protected leave to care for family members, much remains to be done. Child care is still unaffordable, unavailable and low in quality for most American families. Several studies have found that the majority of child care provided in this country is mediocre to poor, jeopardizing children’s safety and development.
In addition, a recent study of child care staffing trends concluded that while investments of public funding have increased access to child care and partially alleviated the financial burden on some families, they have largely failed to improve the quality and stability of child care services. Plus, pay for child care providers remains terribly low, despite a proven link between provider pay and quality of care. Moreover, recent changes to the U.S. welfare system have pushed many single parents into a child care market unprepared to meet their needs.
We are also witnessing continuing efforts to reduce our national commitment to such vital programs as Medicare, Medicaid and community services, such as Meals On Wheels. That is why AFSCME continues to make family legislation a priority and has put its legislative, political and public policy resources into fighting to maintain and increase funding for these essential public services.
AFSCME has won a variety of work/family programs that directly assist AFSCME families. A 1998 survey of 104 major AFSCME collective bargaining agreements (covering 70 percent of AFSCME’s 1.3 million members) found that 74 contracts, covering 648,000 AFSCME members, contained work/family provisions. Of these 74 contracts, the survey revealed the following:
- 33 percent of AFSCME members have access to employer-sponsored child care centers;
- 27 percent have resource and referral programs;
- 54 percent have dependent care assistance plans;
- 18 percent have financial assistance (voucher or vendor programs);
- 6 percent have sick or emergency child care;
- 15 percent have after-school care; and
- 84 percent may take sick leave when their children are ill.
The International Union works directly with affiliate child care committees or labor/management committees. The kind of assistance that has been provided includes: designing and analyzing work/family surveys; analyzing family and medical leave policies; and training union leaders and members on how to achieve work/family programs at the workplace.
AFSCME also provides training, research and technical assistance to councils and locals that organize and represent child care workers, Head Start teachers, and before- and after-school care workers.