By Greg Lucas
SACRAMENTO, Calif (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown, saying "no" to the organized labor groups that helped elect him, vetoed a bill on Tuesday to allow some child-care workers to unionize.
The Democratic governor said that while the bill's goal was laudable, its price tag was too high.
"Maintaining the quality and affordability of child care is a very important goal. So too is making sure that working conditions are decent and fair for those who take care of our children," Brown wrote in his veto message.
"Today California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges. Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost."
About half of California's estimated 80,000 child-care providers would have been affected by the legislation, which applied only to those workers within state programs subsidizing a family's child-care costs.
The ability to organize child-care workers has been a long-time goal of the state's major public employee unions -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, which already represents many of the state's in-home caregivers.
SIEU issued a statement from Tonia McMillian, a child-care provider from Bellflower, saying she was devastated by Brown's veto.
"We are the hidden support for California's economy as it struggles to recover. Child-care providers ... desperately needed this legislation so that we could improve our lives and the lives of the families we serve," McMillian said.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, the Los Angeles Democrat who authored the bill, said he was disappointed child-care workers were not given "a voice in their workplace."
Similar measures were vetoed three times previously by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.
Brown signed another budget-related measure on Tuesday allowing nonprofits to operate state parks, a strategy aimed at preventing the slated closure of some 70 parks in 2012 due to budget cuts.
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Cynthia Johnston)