Digest

September 26, 2007

Child care providers in Md. vote for union

Maryland's nearly 6,000 home-based child care providers have voted to form a union that they say will provide needed training and ensure better reimbursement rates.

The vote was organized by the Service Employees International Union, which has already organized workers in Illinois, Oregon and Washington state. Ballots were counted Monday by the American Arbitration Association and the results - 75 percent of state child care workers voted to join the union - were announced yesterday in Baltimore.

"This is an exciting day for family child care providers and the kids and parents who depend on us," said Madie Green, a child care provider from District Heights in Prince George's County. "Now we have the strong voice we need to stand up for affordable, quality child care in Maryland."

Although the organization effort started nearly three years ago, the push intensified this year when the state was late in paying some child care providers. The state switched to a new payment system and at first there were glitches in the new software.

The state pays child care workers to care for children of low-income working families and families coming off welfare assistance. An average of $10.2 million is paid out to providers every six weeks, according to the Maryland State Department of Education, which manages the program.

In May, child care providers rallied in front of the state school board's headquarters in Baltimore to demand speedy payment. At the time, some said they were behind on their mortgage payments and worried that they would lose their homes. State officials set up a telephone line to handle calls regarding missed payments and offered loans to workers who were behind on their bills.

Workers said yesterday that they hoped the new union could work with state officials to increase rates paid to child care providers. They said that low rates had forced some workers out of the profession and that since 1994 the state had lost several thousand licensed child care providers.

Lynn Anderson

Anne Arundel

: Bay Bridge

Worker rescue ties up traffic

An electrical contractor working on the Bay Bridge fell to a platform under the westbound span yesterday, prompting a rescue effort that forced the closure of all three lanes and backed up traffic for miles, officials said.

The worker, an unidentified 47-year-old man, suffered injuries to his lower body in the 20-foot fall about 2:40 p.m. He was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center. The injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Capt. Harry Steiner, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, said the man had to be rescued by a technical rope team. The nature of the work the man was performing was unclear, but preliminary work was being conducted to prepare the span for redecking this fall.

The lanes reopened about 4:40 p.m., said Cpl. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, and additional disabled vehicles kept traffic moving slowly past 5:30 p.m. Westbound traffic at its peak stretched five miles across Kent Island.

Justin Fenton

Maryland

: Politics

Brown endorses Hillary Clinton

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday.

Brown, who attended Harvard Law School with Barack Obama, had been a holdout; Gov. Martin O'Malley endorsed Clinton, of New York, in May.

The announcement, issued by the Clinton campaign, praised Brown for his Army service in Iraq and for being a "rising star in the Democratic Party."

"Hillary Clinton has the experience, the ideas and the strength to lead America along the path of progress," Brown said in the statement. "She is the best candidate to restore our standing with our global allies, to support our soldiers at home and abroad, and to improve the quality of life for all Americans."

Jennifer Skalka

Prince George's

: College Park

Possible hate crime investigated

Police at the University of Maryland, College Park are investigating the spray-painting of a swastika on a student's car as a potential hate crime, authorities said yesterday.

Three cars parked in front of a fraternity house were reported vandalized Monday, campus police spokesman Paul Dillon said. All three cars had sexually oriented graffiti on them, and one had a swastika drawn on it.

None of the victims is Jewish, and the fraternity has no affiliation with a particular ethnic or minority group, but police are still investigating a hate-related motive, Dillon said.

This month, reports of a noose hanging from a tree near a College Park building that is home to black organizations sparked days of emotional soul-searching among students and administrators.

Doug Dribben, the father of one of the students whose cars were vandalized, said he was upset that police did not alert the campus community to the vandalism, as it did in the noose incident. But Dillon said the swastika vandalism did not merit campuswide notification because "none of the victims was of the Jewish faith."

"The difference with the noose was the location of it," Dillon said. "If this swastika was painted on our Jewish Hillel center, it likely would have warranted a crime alert."

Gadi Dechter

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