March 24, 2010

Bill would allow child care workers to unionize

Print More

By Nick DiMarco
Nick@MarylandReporter.com

The House of Delegates on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing family child care providers to unionize, despite arguments that it would put some day care operators out of business.

The measure would put into law a 2007 executive order by Gov. Martin O’Malley, which authorized collective bargaining rights for caregivers who worked under the state Child Care Subsidy Program.

Several Republican delegates sought to exempt their counties from the bill. Del. Adelaide Eckardt, R-Talbot, said a few counties on the Eastern Shore were among the poorest in the state, and the child care providers were small businesses who could be hurt if their workers unionized.

In October 2009, O’Malley and the Maryland State Department of Education — which oversees the Child Care Subsidy Program — signed a memorandum of understanding designating Service Employees International Union, Local 500 as the exclusive representative.

SEIU has been a strong supporter of O’Malley’s political campaigns and many other Democratic candidates.

On Tuesday, the House advanced the bill toward a final vote. Delegates added three amendments stipulating that non-union members would not be assessed a service fee unless they receive a net benefit from negotiations.

Several Republican delegates sought to exempt their counties from the bill. Del. Adelaide Eckardt, R-Talbot, said a few counties on the Eastern Shore were among the poorest in the state, and the child care providers were small businesses who could be hurt if their workers unionized.

The Republican amendments to carve out counties were rejected in party line votes.

“It passed after a little bit of argument, which is fine,” said Del. Dereck Davis, Economic Matters Committee chairman. “I’m confident it’s going to get out of the House of Delegates. I believe it’s going to get out of the Senate as well … The best argument for it is the amendment we put on it.”

Davis said the measure protects the bargaining rights of child care workers.

“By legislatively mandating it, it’s no longer subject to the whims of a governor, whether it’s this governor or the next governor,” he said. His committee rejected the bill in 2007, but it passed this year 13 to 9, with conservative Democrats joining Republicans in opposing the bill.

Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, was among the few who opposed the bill during Tuesday morning’s session. He asked how the House could make an informed decision when no one presented opposition to the bill during a public hearing in mid-February.

Davis said 8 to 10 people showed up to the hearing, where the committee drafted the bill’s key amendment. He shrugged off opponents’ views saying it was just “political philosophy.”

“Some people are just not in favor of unions. It doesn’t matter if the concerns have been addressed or not, collective bargaining is not just their cup of tea,” he said.