May 23, 2012



Report highlights importance of unionization, caregiver training and economic security

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Home-based child care providers spend their days caring for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens: its children. But these caregivers – who are disproportionately women, work long hours, may have hourly pay below minimum wage, and lack health insurance and other benefits – are also a vulnerable group of New Jerseyans.

A new study released by the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University describes how home-based workers have fared three years after unionization and only four years after they gained the right to organize.

“This research provides a portrait of a diverse and often isolated group of women doing valuable work and highlights the economic vulnerability of a majority of this subset of care laborers,” says Linda Houser, a CWW affiliate fellow and assistant professor at Widener University. “It also demonstrates the workers’ extensive experience and training and their view of the union as a positive force for change.”

The study, “Giving Voice to New Jersey’s Caregivers: The Union Experiences of Home-Based Child Care Providers,” reports on a survey of workers who belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – Council 1 (AFSCME), which represents home-based child care providers in 11 New Jersey counties.

The study’s key findings include:

  • High levels of economic vulnerability intersect with high levels of work effort. More than half of all respondents reported household incomes of less than $25,000 annually, yet, on average, they provide nearly 39 hours a week of care.
  • A third of home-based child care providers have no health insurance, and most of the insured depend on public insurance. Past research suggests that, in addition to limited access to health care, they have limited options to miss work for illness.
  • In contrast to their levels of formal education, respondents are a highly experienced and well-trained group, with an average of 12.5 years providing child care, and with 91% reporting at least one training in the past 12 months and 42% reporting at least one certificate, permit, or credential.
  • The majority of workers believed access to information about regulations, benefits and services, and the ability to address problems, had improved since unionization.  Prior to unionization many providers were unaware of the amount of reimbursement for care to which they were legally entitled.
  • The survey also uncovered a high level of interest in training, particularly training on children’s special needs or toward an associate degree in child development, and the view that the union was helping improve access to training.

New Jersey is one of only 12 states to authorize and successfully negotiate collective bargaining agreements with a child care providers’ union. Just this month Connecticut enacted a law granting these workers the right to collective bargaining.

The report was co-authored by Houser; Elizabeth Nisbet, a CWW postdoctoral research associate; and Karen White, director of work and family programs at CWW.

“This research is important for working families in New Jersey,” noted Rex Reid of AFSCME – Council 1. “Not only does it help us to continue improving conditions and economic security for workers who previously had no ability to negotiate, but it also can help improve the care they provide that other working parents depend on.”

ABOUT RUTGERS’ CENTER FOR WOMEN AND WORK Founded in 1993, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations’ Center for Women and Work (CWW) is an innovative leader in research and programs that promote gender equity, a high-skill economy, and reconciliation of work and well-being for all. CWW addresses women’s advancement in the workplace, conducts cutting-edge research on successful public and workplace policies, provides technical assistance and programs to educators, industry, and governments, and engages issues that directly affect the living standards of New Jersey’s and the nation’s working families. Areas of concentration include: Workforce Development, Education and Career Development, Women’s Leadership and Advancement, and Working Families.

For more information on CWW, visit:

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