Amid a sea of mostly green
T-shirts, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed Senate
Bill 788 into law June 25, making bargaining rights for child care providers a
part of state law.
The signing ceremony
culminated an intense two-year journey into unionism for many child care
providers who in 2004 never dreamed they’d be covered under Oregon law.
“I can’t believe this is
happening,” three different providers whispered as Kulongoski
put ink to paper.
SB 788 codifies into Oregon law the same bargaining rights provided by an
Executive Order signed last year by Kulongoski.
However, as any future governor could trump Kulongoski’s
order with a counter-order of his or her own, getting the language from Kulongoski’s order adopted into state law under his watch
was a primary focus all session long for both AFSCME and the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU).
Oregon AFSCME, under the
banner Child Care Providers Together, has the representational rights for about
4,400 registered and certified child care providers statewide. Registered or
certified providers can typically oversee between four and 16 children,
depending on the size of their facility and other factors. SEIU has the
representational rights to licensed exempt providers, who can only oversee
three or less children. The two unions worked together to pass SB 788 through
the arduous legislative process, and providers (and children) from both unions
were on hand to witness Kulongoski’s historic
It’s a new area of
representation for both unions and a new concept for many legislators.
“These providers are sort of
‘hidden,’ but a vital part of our local economies,” said Oregon AFSCME
Executive Director Ken Allen. “They’re watching our children so other people
can go to work.”
Marian McDonald is President
of AFSCME Local 132, which represents the AFSCME/CCPT providers statewide. She
traveled from Portland to watch the quick signing ceremony.
“This is just wonderful,”
she said. “It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come so quickly.”
Allen praised Council 75
Political Coordinator Janice O’Malley, who shepherded SB 788 through the 2007
“Janice did a great job on
this issue,” he said.
With SB 788 becoming law, Oregon is on the cutting edge. Two states – Illinois and Washington – already have bargaining laws for child care
providers, and a handful of other states are considering the issue. Oregon is now the third state to pass such a statute.
Moreover, the pattern of success established by Council 75 and Local 132 is
serving as a model for other AFSCME Councils nationally.