By Kristina Rasmussen -
Giving women the freedom to choose is sexist.
At least that’s the opinion shared by Laura Reyes, who ranks among the top brass of a major government employee union, in a recent Huff Post Politics post.
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, freedom is sexist.
Reyes’ argues that the Harris v. Quinn case, which seeks to permit an Illinois mom the choice of whether to join a union as a condition for caring for her disabled son, is actually another front on the so-called “war on women.”
Supposedly, anything that stands in the way of forcing more women into unions – including Pam Harris’ case before the Supreme Court – is part of a hidden sexist agenda.
I don’t buy it. Nor should you.
Why? Lately I’ve been speaking to day-care providers across Illinois who were unwillingly unionized into the “Healthcare IL-IN” local of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, because they care for low-income children through a state aid program.
My mom was a day-care provider. I know how hard a job it is, because I grew up with it. I respect providers immensely. I’ve never been prouder of my sister than when she announced the opening of her own in-home child care business.
That’s why I’m so distressed by the stories I’m hearing from women from every corner of Illinois.
One provider reached out and had this to say:
“I paid $900 in [union dues] last year, which is $75 a month… My own children received reduced lunches because I myself have no money.”
This woman wants out of the union. She’s stuck, disenfranchised – the opposite of empowered.
Other providers have told me how they’ve stopped providing diapers or lowered their thermostat to account for the money lost to union dues.
Here’s yet another day-care provider who debunks the notion that unions are helping her get ahead:
“You can see, this month, they took over 5 percent out of my pay. … [T]here are others who have had much more taken out this month.
“I’m sorry, but the ‘raises’ the union has supposedly gotten us goes right into their own pocket!”
In fact, one provider actually suspended her involvement in the day-care aid program because of her frustration with the union:
“I had actually stopped taking subsidy kids for a while because I felt SEIU was ripping me off.”
In this instance, that meant one less provider for parents to place their kids with while working. In a rural community, that can be a make-or-break situation.
It’s clear that a lot of home-based child-care providers don’t want a union. Most unions in Illinois have 98-99 percent of the people they represent sign up as full members, but the Healthcare IL-IN local of SEIU represents 93,000 employees, and only 56,000 of those have actually joined the union. The rest are called “agency fee payers,” meaning they still have to pay union dues but they don’t consider themselves part of the local.
That means almost 40 percent of the people that Healthcare IL-IN represents don’t want to be part of the union even though they are still forced to pay dues to it. This is an absolutely stunning number.
Union bosses such as Reyes would have these women shackled to a union against their will. Why? It’s big money.
Reyes earned an amazing $261,695 in union compensation in 2012. From that, $216,006 was from the national headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and $45,689 came from a local.
Someone has to pay for this.
Every dollar of Reyes’ salary came from workers – including countless women – who had to pay whether they wanted to or not.
Yet she has the gall to write in her Huff Post piece: “We have already lost too much time and, frankly, too much compensation owed for our work.”
The women of America don’t owe Reyes a penny.
Aren’t we beyond forcing women to do things against their will?
A Supreme Court ruling favorable to Pam Harris would be the very essence of feminism achieved.
Kristina Rasmussen is Executive Vice President of the Illinois Policy Institute