LePage aims to strip all child-care workers of right to organize

Posted Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in News

LePage aims to strip all child-care workers of right to organize

by Gina Hamilton

AUGUSTA — Apparently, a legal aide in the LePage administration told the governor it was unconstitutional to strip the right to organize from some child-care workers ... those who get state subsidies ... but not others. That would be a breach of the equal protection provision of the 14th Amendment.

So instead, Gov. Paul LePage wants to end the right to unionize for all child-care workers.

LePage is hoping lawmakers pass L.D. 1894, which would repeal a 2008 law that extended the right to unionize to nearly 300 child-care providers, even though they are not state workers.

"This really is not about collective bargaining," said Dan Billings, the LePage attorney. "It's about independent businesses trying to use that process to their benefit."  Billings is referring to small family day-care homes, where owners are the primary workers. They aren't able to take a day off work to lobby the Legislature about issues that affect them ... say, regulation changes ... because, well, they have kids and their parents depending on them. 

Unlike other organizations, such as hospitals and nursing homes, which can hire lobbyists, child-care providers usually work in a home with one or two adults at the most, and all hands are needed to care for the small children. Currently, they are represented by the Maine State Employees Association.

"These small businesses are advocating for sensible child-care policies and regulation, including legislation affecting the child-care voucher system, and water and safety regulations," said Chris Quint, executive director of the MSEA.

LePage proposed the elimination of collective bargaining rights for this same group of workers last year, along with a corresponding cut in the subsidy rates that help cover the cost of child care for low-income families. Both ideas were rejected by lawmakers. The new bill, which is being considered by the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, does not propose any change in subsidy rates, but would repeal the collective bargaining rights of the workers.

The measure will not save the state any money in the short term, which prompted some Democratic lawmakers to ask why it is necessary.

"If it's not costing the state more for people to be in an association, what's the harm?" asked Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.

Nicholas Adolphsen, director of legislative affairs for DHHS, said the bill addresses a larger policy concern: Other industries that receive state subsidies ... such as foster parents ... will want the right to unionize.

Last week, Republicans in the Legislature passed a different piece of legislation that removed the right to unionize from the workers at the former DeCoster egg farm. Quint said the child-care legislation, which is scheduled for a committee vote on Friday, is another attempt by the LePage administration to bust unions in Maine.

blog comments powered by Disqus