It’s crunch time in the Legislature. Last Friday—the deadline in the Assembly to amend any pending bills—AB 101 was amended to provide for the unionization of home child
care providers. AB 101 originally dealt with identifying general fund savings in the state’s developmental services system. So the amendment of AB 101 was a classic “gut and amend.”
The new AB 101 is sponsored by Speaker Perez with Senator Steinberg as the principal co-sponsor. AB 101 would allow child care providers the right to unionize and participate in
collective bargaining. According to a post by the Sacramento Bee, this bill has been a
priority of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for years. Similar bills were vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger three times.
What is interesting is what this bill actually does and doesn’t do. First, AB 101 appears to be aimed at child care providers who are part of a “child care subsidy program” established
by the Department of Social Services to subsidize families purchasing child care. AB 101 does not allow child care providers to unionize against their “employers.” Rather, AB 101 allows child care providers to unionize in order to bargain against the State of California. Specifically, the scope of representation would include items such as the administration of laws and regulations governing licensing for providers; benefits for providers; payment procedures for child care subsidy programs; and reimbursement rates for providers participating in a child care subsidy program. I suspect that the unions realize that just trying to unionize child care providers against their “employers” doesn’t do much good since the State controls the purse strings.
Under AB 101, the Department of Personnel Administration (DPA) would represent the Governor in bargaining with any exclusive representative of child care providers. DPA currentlty represents the Governor in bargaining with all the State employee unions. The
Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) would be tasked with administering the
new law, including dealing with unit determination issues, elections, and unfair practice charges. Although PERB would have jurisdiction over AB 101, the bill expressly provides that it, “does not change family child care providers’ status as independent business owners or classify family child care providers as public employees.”
- According to the Sacramento Bee, there are 40,000 child care providers who potentially could be unionized if this bill passes. Ignoring the merits of the bill, my major concern is the effect it will have on PERB. As far as I know, PERB is not slated to get any more funding if AB 101 passes, yet it is being tasked with administering a law covering the work. Exactly how much work would be added to PERB’s plate is unknown. However, as a comparison, the California State University system has about 42,000 employees at last count. So this bill essentially adds another CSU system to PERB’s workload.
- In addition to the extra work, the inclusion of child care providers will for the first time give PERB jurisdiction over private sector employees. I think this has the potential to change the character of PERB over time and warrants some discussion among stakeholders. I can certainly understand why the Legislature chose to task PERB with administering this bill. It is loosely modeled after the Dills Act which PERB already administers. Perhaps more important, there probably aren’t any better options. The only other options would be to give oversight to the courts, to the ALRB, or create a new agency. None of these three options is particularly appealing. But even though it may make the most sense to give PERB jurisdiction over child care providers, I certainly feel it warrants more discussion and analysis than is going to be provided by this
last minute amendment. Given the sponsors of this bill, the odds are that it is going to pass the Legislature. Whether the Governor will sign it remains to be seen.