On Monday, a Michigan Capitol Confidential story brought to light a series of e-mails between Nick Ciaramitaro, director of legislation and public policy for AFSCME Council 25, and representatives from the Michigan Department of Human Services and the Michigan Home-Based Child Care Council (MHBCCC).
The ensuing e-mail traffic revealed much more insight into the role of the MHBCCC and its relationship with the day care provider union, Child Care Providers-Together Michigan (CCPTM), than has been publicly discussed by Ciaramitaro or other parties involved.
As pointed out in the story:
His (Ciaramitaro's) e-mails suggest that the MHBCCC's true role was not to improve day care conditions but to facilitate union negotiations and the transfer of money from the Department of Human Services to unions.
In a Sept. 13, 2009, e-mail, Ciaramitaro wrote about the MHBCCC: "In many ways, this is an experiment with little guidance from statute and virtually no administrative or judicial precedent to follow. ... The Interlocal Agreement came about at the recommendation of Michigan AFSCME and the UAW with the support of the Executive Office."
In a Sept. 11, 2009, e-mail, Ciaramitaro discussed a dispute over dues collection: "We can't quite understand how an overpayment could occur as we were of the opinion that the MHBCCC was basically simply transferring money received from the Department."
According to the story, Ciaramitaro could not be reached for comment.
I spotted him in the audience of a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Human Services meeting yesterday at which the CCPTM and the MHBCCC were agenda items. Despite the revealing information contained in his e-mails, Ciaramitaro declined to comment on the Michigan Capitol Confidential story and his e-mails. (For the record, when asked, Ciaramitaro also declined to comment on the Senate committee hearing that was taking place.)
Another point Ciaramitaro brought up in the e-mail exchange, which was not part of the Capitol Confidential Story, had to do with the employment status of Michigan's home-based day care providers and owners.
At Tuesday's Senate hearing, a representative from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) testified that MERC certified the CCPTM according to the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA) which covers public employees. In an e-mail, however, Ciaramitaro defined these day care providers differently:
"Here, a group of people who provide a critical public service as independent contractors are reimbursed for their labors by the state." (Emphasis added)
When asked about this inconsistency in the employment description of day care owners and providers, Ciaramitaro declined to clarify the terms. Nor would he explain why the CCPTM intervenes on behalf of day care providers who seek help from the DHS, even though their collective bargaining agreement is with the MHBCCC, not the DHS. This question arose from the litany of testimony Tuesday by home day care union members who, in near conformity, stated that a) they were not forced to join a union and that b) the CCPTM had gone to bat for them many times over as they tried to deal with DHS. Ciaramitaro referred me to Herb Sanders, who runs the CCPTM arm of Michigan AFSCME 25. Sanders also refused to answer this question.