R.I. child-care providers vote 390-19 to unionize with SEIU
RHODE ISLAND CHILD-CARE providers have voted to unionize under Service Employees International Union District 1199NE, following a vote count Thursday that set the final tally at 390-19. The vote went forward despite objections from, among others, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which has issued a condemnation of what it called “heavy-handed tactics” and a lack of transparency surrounding the election.
PROVIDENCE – An overwhelming majority of Rhode Island’s family child-care providers have elected to accept Service Employees International Union representation, with a final vote tally of 390-19.
The votes, cast in a secret-ballot election held at six different times and locations around the state during the last week of October, were counted Thursday at the R.I. State Labor Relations Board office in Cranston. Approximately 540 providers who participate in the state’s child care assistance program were eligible to vote in the election.
“After 10 years we finally get to have a voice through our union,” said Rosemary Raygada, one of the child-care providers who voted in favor of unionizing under SEIU. “We’re going to continue to work for the development of children and their families. It’s a time to work together.”
The decision to join SEIU District 1199NE follows Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s signing in August of legislation allowing such unionization. The vote went forward despite objections from, among others, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which had appealed to the State Labor Relations Board to delay the vote until the early 2014 return of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a related Illinois case.
Following the vote count Thursday, the Center for Freedom & Prosperity issued a news release criticizing what it called “heavy-handed tactics” and a lack of transparency surrounding the election.
Center volunteers had organized to observe the election proceedings, the release stated, but were stopped by state troopers who allegedly threatened to arrest the volunteers for “electioneering” within 200 feet of the polling place or interfering with the proceedings, which is prohibited under State Labor Relations Board regulations.
“Absolutely no electioneering took place – no protests, no signs, no materials passed out, and no volunteer, in any way, attempted to interfere with the election process, yet they were threatened with arrest for just being in the vicinity,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center for Freedom & Prosperity, in the release. “Meanwhile union supporters were allowed to wear their purple SEIU scarves all the way inside.”
The release also said that the vote tally overwhelmingly in favor of unionization was “at significant odds with results from many other states” and inconsistent with counts that the center’s volunteers reported at the polling locations.
State Labor Relations Board officials were not immediately available to comment on the center’s allegations.