When the union, politicians, and media gang up on you

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Greg B. Macabenta

Posted on August 09, 2017

There’s a joke among Pinoy grandparents in America: The reason for their existence is in order to perform their apos-tolate -- a pun that means having to babysit their grandchildren or apo.

One of the biggest problems confronting families in the US is child care.

When both parents have to work in order to cope with living expenses, who will take care of the baby and the young kids? That’s where Filipino households that have grandparents enjoy an advantage. But what happens if lolo and lola are not around to help? The only option is to bring the baby or young children to a baby sitter or a child care facility.

That can cost a ton of money. A 2016 report estimated that the cost of child care for one child was from $9,589 to $16,375 per year. For needy families and low wage earners, as well as for single parents, this is extremely difficult to afford.

But what is even more worrisome is that the children may not be properly cared for, unless the child care facility is professionally operated and closely regulated.

In Santa Clara County, the seat of Silicon Valley, a nonprofit has been dutifully meeting these urgent needs for the past 45 years. The Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara or 4Cs.

With state and federal funding, 4Cs has helped give needy families access to free quality child care. It has benefited more than 55,000 families and 100,00 children (from infancy through age 13) in the county, and currently serves over 2,400 families and 6,000 children a year, a number of Filipinos being among the beneficiaries. Some of the families are homeless, with children who have special needs or are severely disabled Many of these children come from single-parent homes.

4Cs assists families in navigating the complex government procedures to qualify for free child care. It then helps them find professionally trained child care providers in the most convenient location and a safe environment.

The parents are thus able to earn a living with their minds at ease. They also join monthly workshops where they socialize and discuss topics such as Parental Resilience, Social Connections, Social Competence, and Child Development.

In the process, 4Cs has helped develop a child care industry of more than 2,400 providers, many of them small, minority-owned and women-owned enterprises (SMWEs). 4Cs gives them training in child care skills, nutrition, language development and literacy, pediatric CPR and first aid, cognitive development and support for young bilinguals. To SMWEs, 4Cs also offers workshops on business planning, taxes, bookkeeping, and disaster preparedness. Through 4Cs, SMWEs receive funding as Early Head Start providers.

With the services provided by 4Cs so vital, why would anyone in his right mind want to sabotage the nonprofit and drive it out of existence? Apparently, that is exactly what’s happening. Worse yet, some politicians and the media have been involved in ganging up on the 4Cs.

It’s a union power play, that’s why.

It’s the kind of power play that we have seen happen in the Philippines. Whether in California or in Manila, when politicians and mercenary media are harnessed by a union to gang up on an organization, the company is as good as dead.

I learned about the threat to 4Cs when members of the Filipino community in Santa Clara County brought it to my attention, in my capacity as a community activist. Santa Clara happens to have the largest Pinoy population in Northern California, estimated at 150,000, of which some 80,000 live in San Jose.

According to sources, in 2015, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) persuaded workers of 4Cs to unionize, a right that 4Cs management recognized. When negotiations for a new contract got underway, management agreed to some 96% of the demands, but the remaining provisions stalled the talks. That’s when problems for 4Cs began.

The problems worsened with the involvement of politicians and media.

Members of the California state legislature, as well as powerful officials in Santa Clara County, have also been pressuring 4Cs to give in to the demands of the union. Records derived due to Freedom of Information statutes indicate that SEIU has been a generous contributor to the campaigns of California politicians.

Apparently, one pressure tactic is a legislative audit of 4Cs, even while this duplicates four other regular audits of the non-profit.

However, 4Cs officials insist, “We welcome the legislative audit,” adding that the nonprofit has had annual audits throughout its 45 year existence and has always had a clean slate.

Interestingly, the hardball tactics being employed by SEIU have already gotten the union in trouble with the law.

In a landmark court case in Houston, Texas in 2016, a jury ordered the union to pay Professional Janitorial Services (PJS) Houston $5.3 million in damages for making false claims about the company’s business practices and treatment of PJS employees.

A PJS news release reported that SEIU fought the law suit for 10 years to avoid public disclosure of its “campaign manual” and internal communications that encouraged union officials to break laws and “kill PJS.” Evidence in the trial resulted in findings that the union had made false claims, issued false statements, and had directed its representatives to “recruit” reporters in Houston who would help them “take the offensive” in the campaign against PJS, and for the “media allies” to focus reporting on the union’s falsified and subsequently discredited claims.

According to Santa Clara sources, while negotiations between 4Cs and SEIU have been ongoing, the union’s attacks against the nonprofit and the pressure from the politicians and media have intensified, with tactics similar to those employed in Texas.

Political pressure has also included proposed legislation to make nonprofits and private service providers like 4Cs go under, unless they succumb to union pressure. AB 1250 has been introduced in the State Assembly that mandates stringent regulations, including those that intrude into legitimate operating practices of private businesses. These regulations would make it extremely difficult for the nonprofits and service providers to operate.

Hovering like a sword of Damocles over them is the threat that the counties could take over the services they provide. In the Philippines, that is a formula for graft and corruption. In California, it is a formula for red tape, inefficiency and additional cost burdens to the local governments.

Unfortunately, one of the sponsors of AB 1250 is Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the first and only Filipino-American member of the California State Legislature.

“And we thought Bonta was our hero and defender of our interests,” the Santa Clara FilAms complained. “Why is he doing this?”

Assemblyman Bonta may have some explaining to do.

Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.