SACRAMENTO -- The California Assembly approved legislation Thursday that would allow thousands of child-care workers to join unions, renewing a controversial proposal that has been vetoed by governors from both political parties.
The bill (AB 641), which is estimated to cost the state tens of millions of dollars if enacted, was the subject of heated debate between Democrats and Republicans on the Assembly floor.
Democrats said unionization would help improve standards for child care and boost workers' standard of living.
“I’m willing to pay for quality," said Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) said unionizing would help protect child care from budget cuts.
“When you are not able to organize ... you are going to get the short end of the stick," she said.
Republicans criticized the bill, saying more state money would be used to increase workers' pay rather than caring for children.
“It drives up the cost of child care for low-income, working parents," said Assemblyman Donald Wagner (R-Irvine).
The bill is sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, which would both stand to gain new dues-paying members if the proposal is enacted.
The legislation must be approved by the state Senate before it can reach Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
“California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges,” he wrote in his veto message. “Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost.”
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