Childcare Workers Confront Board
Thursday, February 28, 2002
When employees of Children''s Services International (CSI) vote next month on whether to unionize, a heated battle may finally be put to rest.
CSI, a non-profit operating in Monterey County since 1974, provides care for 2,500 children. The company''s 160 employees, who earn from $7 to $20 per hour, banded together in January to consider joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Monday night at CSI''s Salinas headquarters, CSI parent boardmembers faced off with the workers who care for their children in what SEIU organizer Nora Hochman described as a "bittersweet and moving" session.
Hochman says CSI feels threatened by the prospect of unionization.
"They''re afraid of it because it affects the level of power of workers," she says. "When workers unionize, they share the power and have a voice on the job. That''s the beauty of unionization."
Hochman says CSI doesn''t want to see any of that happen. CSI Deputy Director Roni O''Connell argues that nothing could be further from the truth.
"We''re neutral," she says. "What we do advocate for is that our employees get complete information and make informed decisions. We in no way oppose unionization."
O''Connell did express concern about the center''s "inability to secure new insurance for our centers since the union debate ensued." She says she fears lack of insurance after March 31 could force Center closures countywide, affecting countless low-income families.
"If we close the doors, the children will have no place to go, and adults will find themselves unemployed because they can''t find affordable childcare. We''re deeply concerned and are doing our best to do right by our employees and by our families."
Hochman accuses CSI of using "scare tactics." She says Board President Maria O''Grady was doing the same when she said that "something has to be done now to keep the Center open," following employees attempts to unionize.
Hochman also takes issue with how CSI is funding what she calls their "anti-union campaign." She points out that, in accordance with Assembly Bill 1889, use of public funds in any union campaign would be prohibited.
"If they''re even making copies of fliers at their copy machines, they''re using public funds," Hochman says.
But O''Connell denies any such prohibited practice.
"We have funds from diverse sources," she says, "and we''re not involved in any sort of anti-union campaign."
Supes Boost Measure N
A plan just released by the county''s water management agency paints a bleak picture of the future in North County. Seawater intrusion and nitrate contamination continue to poison crops and the drinking water. Demand is too high, supply''s too low, and neither the Monterey County Water Resource Agency (MCWRA) nor the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA) have the infrastructure or the funding to find enough water to go around.
Solving these water woes won''t be cheap. And according to a water management plan--presented to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 26--most solutions involve finding new water sources.
The plan green-lights a proposal drawn up by PVWMA, which depends largely on importing water to the area via a pipeline form the Central Valley. Additionally, it suggests four alternatives to solve the water crisis throughout the rest of North County: buy and retire ag land to reduce demand; extend the existing Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project infrastructure to deliver water to north county; drill new wells in the Salinas Valley along Highway 101 and pipe water north; and build a desalination plan in Moss Landing.
The plan also recommends keeping the moratorium on subdivisions in the area until a new water supply is in place.
At the Board of Supes meeting, supervisors watched a brief slide show detailing the plan, before unanimously adopting a resolution supporting Measure N in the March 5 election.
Measure N would allow the PVWMA to raise its rates, most likely to import water via a pipeline from the Central Valley. It has yet to be approved by voters, and faces some opposition from farmers who will feel the cost hike the most. (A pipeline would raise the total cost of one acre-foot of water from $50 now to $258 in 2007.)
Carolyn Anderson, chair of the County''s Ad Hoc Water Committee said the committee hasn''t had time to digest and respond to the plan.
"We reserve the right to discuss it at a later date," she told the Board. As soon as one--or all, or a combination--of the alternatives is selected by the County water agency and the Ad Hoc Committee, it will return to the supes for environmental review and final approval.
"Without expenditure to develop new supplies or reduce the current demand, the quality of life and economy of North County will be affected by the chronic overdraft," reads the plan.
--Michelle Caldwell, Jessica Lyons