Child care providers in RI vote to unionize

Home-based day care workers in Rhode Island on Thursday celebrated their vote to unionize.

The landslide approval means they can negotiate with the state over benefits. The vote was 390 to join the union and 19 against.

There wasn't much question over the outcome as the 409 votes were tallied, nor was the sentiment among the day care providers any secret as they learned they will now be represented by the Service Employees International Union.

"Words cannot explain my feelings right now," said Araminta McIntosh, a day care provider.

Unionization supporters said the organization will make sure children of low-income families getting subsidized day care in Rhode Island will get better services, which is good for everybody.

"For our children to have the privilege to access some of the wonderful, wonderful privileges that we have in Rhode Island, educationally and financially -- and professionalism too. Investing in our children means rising up Rhode Island," McIntosh said.

Opponents said they fear it will cost the state more money because the providers will be able to negotiate higher wages. They also claim the election wasn't performed fairly.

"We think this whole thing was pretty much rigged from the start," said Mike Stenhouse of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

Stenhouse said his people tried to observe the elections held over the past week.

"The fact that armed guards were keeping the public away. The fact that some of those citizens were threatened with arrest. And now, we're seeing vote tallies that are totally out of whack with what we've seen in many other states," Stenhouse said.

But union workers were in the polls, even helping man the polls.

Legally, an objection to the election can be filed within five days of the count. Stenhouse's group and another are considering whether they will do that. Otherwise, the unionization of about 540 child care providers will go ahead.