Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Still trying to keep up with the sudden and temporary interest in fathers stimulated by this Sunday's holiday. We'll hit the heavy stuff today ...

The report from American University's Work-Life Law center that I wrote about on Friday came out this week. It's an novel look at the link between union contracts and work-family balance, which is generally a place where academics have spent little time. One upshot is that balance issues are generally not spelled out in union contracts, leaving a huge area of potential conflict up in the air, often to be settled by arbitration. The report recommends that unions fight for family-centric policies and work with management to promote better communication and understanding. The bad news: a Nexis search turned up zero references to the report -- titled "Work/Family Conflict: Union Style," and overseen by American Law Prof. Joan Williams.

The other deep piece relates to a new Canadian proposal for universal daycare. This came to my attention when a reader e-mailed me urging me to sign a petition opposing the move. The reasoning was simple, and I've heard it before: why should at-home parents, who have made financial sacrifices to stay home, help subsidize their rich next-door neighbor's childcare? I can't say that argument gets me much worked up.

Here's my thinking: There is a shortage of quality daycare in the U.S. (and, I presume, Canada), and by no means is at-home parenthood an economically viable choice for many, many families. Economists, social scientists and demographers all seem to agree that the middle-class lifestyle all but demands two wage earners. So for a great many families, daycare is a necessity, and I believe that society ought to make sure that necessity is of high quality and affordable price. This means, to be sure, that some parents who don't need the subsidy will benefit, but the vast majority of the benefit will be on families just barely making it financially. Universal daycare helps alleviate an impossible choice: economic danger or low-cost, unregulated, poor-quality care.

This is a topic that tends to get readers worked up, and you're welcome to have a go at it in the comments section ... I've got to keep moving on -- the Dad's Day articles continue to flow in ...


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