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Democratic legislative leaders have rolled out a last-minute bill that would allow unions to organize child care providers who work out of the home.

The measure, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, would give family child care providers the right to organize and participate in collective bargaining. It would affect both licensed family child care providers, who can care for no more than 14 children in their home, and certain license-exempt providers, including grandparents, relatives and neighbors receiving state subsidies to care for one family.

The bill language argues that the change is needed to "improve the quality of child care and to reduce turnover in the industry that is charged with providing safe and quality care for children in California."

"Limited or no employment benefits and low wages can drive dedicated child care providers from the profession. The resulting turnover negatively impacts the quality of child care provided and prevents children from receiving the type of care they require in order to be prepared for, and adapt successfully to, school settings," the bill reads.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union have for years sought the ability to organize the state's roughly 40,000 home child care providers. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed three similar measures approved by the Legislature, including a 2008 bill by then-Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. Child Care Providers United, a child care provider union affiliated with AFSCME and SEIU, has launched a Web petition calling for the state Legislature to act on the issue this year.

Donita Stromgren, policy and member services director for the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, said while union clout could provide needed support and protection for providers hurting from budget cuts, the protocol for extracting dues from reimbursements the state provides to cover low-income children could restrict access to child care for those families.

"If providers really don't want to pay those fees or dues, they may say, 'I don't want to take child care subsidy children,'" Stromgren said.

Critics of similar legislation pushed in recent years have also raised concerns that the change could drive an increase in rates for families across the board.

The bill language was inserted into Assembly Bill 101 on Friday -- the formal deadline for amending legislation ahead of the final week of the legislative session.

The bill, which was amended in the Senate, will need to clear policy committees and full floor votes in both houses before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for consideration.



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