Advertisement

A child-care bill that isn’t

AB 101 began its career in January as a budget bill, then turned into a measure to eliminate community redevelopment agencies, and in June it was amended again and became an effort to slash in-home care service to seniors and the disabled. On Sept. 2, it was reborn one more time as a bill to create a powerful and well-funded new union of government contractors.

Touted by backers as a response to the state’s “broken child-care system,” the bill would allow home-based child-care providers to unionize if the children they care for receive state subsidies. That would in turn allow the new union to collect dues from each provider, whether or not the provider opts to join.

The reasons for Gov. Jerry Brown to veto this bill, and swiftly, are numerous.

First, the state cannot afford it. A new collective bargaining right for home-based day-care businesses may mean higher pay for those workers, but that would have to be funded by other parts of the state budget. Labor leaders would no doubt assert piously that the difference should be made up by closing tax loopholes for businesses, but they know full well that Sacramento responds to budget shortfalls by disproportionately slashing programs that serve the very people they claim to want to help: children and their families.

Advertisement

That’s the second reason for a veto. This bill isn’t about protecting children, families or child-care providers; it’s about empowering organized labor. In just the last two years, lawmakers have cut child-care and preschool funding by more than $1 billion, forcing more families to choose: say no to a job and remain on welfare in order to stay home with a child; or take the job, get off the public dole and break the law by leaving the child at home unattended. Programs that Democrats keep slashing (reluctantly, they argue), such as Healthy Families and CalWORKS, provide direct assistance to children and their families. Their drawback is, apparently, that they don’t provide labor unions a piece of the action.

The Legislature could already choose to pay child-care providers more, with or without a union, and be held accountable for that choice: spend whatever “extra” funding turns up on expanding the rolls of eligible families, or promote and financially support a new union. It could also fix an administrative problem that allows some unscrupulous private agencies that handle state child-care vouchers to improperly withhold payment from providers.

And third, the fact that this bill was gutted and completely rewritten during the final week of the session, without hearings and without discussion, is patently offensive. If it were a worthy bill, it could have been introduced in January along with all the others. It’s not. Brown should give it the veto it deserves.


Advertisement