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Last-minute legislation that would allow unions to organize child-care providers who work out of their homes was approved by the Senate this evening.

Assembly Bill 101, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would affect roughly 40,000 home-based child-care providers, as well as some individuals receiving state subsidies to care for relatives

The proposal was introduced as an amendment to an existing bill late last week and had its first and only public hearing Wednesday.

The labor unions backing the bill -- American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union -- have for years sought the right to organize the child-care providers.

Similar proposals have passed the Legislature in recent years but were vetoed by former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Supporters say budget cuts to state subsidies that help cover the care of children from low-income families gives new importance to the measure.

"We have made hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to subsidized child care, and so if you choose to devote your professional life caring for little children, we have already done a lot of damage," Steinberg said. "Where is the hope for people who too often are paid a substandard wage? The hope lies in the ability to organize."

Critics raised concerns about the costs of the measure, which would allow unionized child-care providers to negotiate reimbursement rates for the state child care assistance in future years.

"This is not the right focus," said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville. "The focus ought to be on how we can create more jobs in the state of California, how can we unencumber the challenges that business have in this state, how can we move forward with a vibrant economy."

The bill was approved on a party-line vote, 23-15. It will now be sent to the Assembly for consideration ahead of Friday, the final day of the legislative session.


Democrats make last-minute push to unionize California child care workers


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