Child Care Providers Who Serve Low-Income Families Are Organizing in California

Supermajority Education Fund

March 2, 2020

California child care providers who serve many low-income families are organizing to improve their working conditions. On Feb. 5, providers delivered 10,000 copies of signed union cards to the Public Employment Relations Board, the state office that conducts an election among child care workers. 

According to Child Care Providers UNITED California (CCPU), the collective bargaining process will benefit what they say is a mostly female, majority women of color workforce. CCPU is a union of family child care providers across the state who are members of SEIU Local 99, SEIU Local 521, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. Workers say the recognition of a statewide union like CCPU will help them professionalize the industry, stabilize child care programs by reducing turnover, and create a pathway out of poverty for workers. Gretchen Donart, media communicator with CCPU, said the steps are still being worked out but that the election will likely begin in April.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB 378, which lets family daycare workers — or workers who have children stay in their home or work at a family’s home, and are provided money from the state to care for children in low-income households — collectively bargain with the state over issues such as reimbursement rates, recruitment, and professional development. 

Assemblymember Monique Limon (D) introduced the bill and said her interest in authoring the legislation came from her work as vice-chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. In that role, she heard stories from child care workers who said they did not earn a livable wage or qualify for the same subsidies as the families they serve. 

Given the fact that many employers do not support flexibility for working parents — and mothers in particular — child care workers are often indispensable to families. A joint survey last year by The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and Caring Across Generations also found that three-quarters of Americans think there aren’t enough caregivers in the U.S. for children to meet current needs.

“This bill professionalizes an industry of workers that helps other workers go to work,” Limon told Supermajority News. “The attempt to unionize childcare workers is not new; multiple efforts have been made over the past 16 years. This year, we were fortunate in getting the bill across the finish line.” 

She added, “We know when families have access to high-quality care, parents are more productive in the workplace, and children are set up to succeed later in education and life. When childcare providers have a seat at the table and the ability to offer their expertise to the state on how to build better early care and education system, they can identify cost-saving measures that could ultimately create more access for families and children who need quality care while helping families afford the cost of it.”