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Originally published Friday, January 29, 2010 at 2:29 PM

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State Senate should kill child-care unionization bill

The Seattle Times Editorial Board opposes House Bill 1329, a project of the Service Employees International Union to organize owners of child-care centers under labor law.

THE House of Representatives in Olympia has passed a bill that could force the owners of child-care centers into being represented by a union. This is an improper application of labor law.

Under ordinary law, an organization represents you, or your company, if you agree. It's an individual choice. Labor law is different. A group of employees may petition for a vote, and if the union wins the vote it represents everyone in the group and the people who join the group in the future. The choice to be represented is democratic, not individual.

House Bill 1329, sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, applies this model — the petition, the vote and compulsory membership — to "child care center directors and workers." If directors and workers approve union representation in a vote, the union — presumably the Service Employees International Union, whose bill this is — would negotiate with the state over payment per subsidized child. The bill specifies that the union's dues be deducted from the state's payment to the center.

The union here is not representing the workers against the owners. The bill forbids that. The union is representing the child-care center against the state.

In effect, this is compulsory membership in a trade organization, authorized by managers and workers.

Business owners might be expected to object to that — and some have. Chains of 10 or more units (think Kinder Care) have gotten themselves exempted. National nonprofits (think YMCA) are exempt. The Indian tribes are exempt. And, of course government, as a child-care center owner, has exempted itself. Other child-care centers could be roped in, provided they accepted even one child under state subsidy.

This bill has passed the House 62-35. The Senate should kill it.

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