State child care providers rally at Capitol

By Sheri Williams

Dozens of members of Child Care Providers United (CCPU) rallied together with parents in a call on the State of California to raise wages for child care providers, who have worked on the frontlines during the pandemic.

Child care providers are currently negotiating their first union contract with the state, highlighting the low wages many child care providers are faced with, and the need for more professionals to join their ranks so Californians can return to work knowing their kids are safe and happy.

Governor Newsom’s latest budget proposal, known as the “May Revision,” made progress towards the growing demands from CCPU and parents across the state by expanding access to early education for young learners, the union said in a statement. But at the May rally at the Capitol, CCPU highlighted the unconscionable pay disparities faced by California’s child care providers, a majority Black and brown, and female. These disparities must be addressed as an essential part of our state’s child care infrastructure to ensure providers can stay open to support California’s families as well as their own, the union said.

In California, provider pay is based on a 2015 survey of provider rates and covers just 75% of that amount, with no cost of living adjustments or other raises to these rates to keep up with inflation. Providers take home between $3.20 and $9.50 an hour, far below the current $14 an hour minimum wage, before expenses. Expenses include serving hot meals, learning materials, costs of high-speed internet and laptops to support distance learners, paying a mortgage and utilities, and paying aides, among many other things.

Rasiene Reece, a family child care provider for more than 20 years from Victorville, shared the financial strain faced by providers across the state.

“Our child care system, which was already in crisis before the pandemic, is now on the verge of collapse. Child care is the only way many working parents can balance career success with family responsibilities, and it’s especially crucial to bringing women back into the workforce. Child care providers are a critical piece of our state’s human infrastructure, yet our rates have not increased in years, while California’s minimum wage has grown 55% since 2015.”

“Parents and providers are joining together to demand a comprehensive child care system that rebuilds the caring economy of the future. With $76 billion in state surpluses and billions in federal child care relief, we can ensure both higher wages for early educators and access to no-cost child care assistance for families,” said Jennifer Greppi from Parent Voices California. “Generations of women, especially from low income and communities of color, have been left behind before and during the pandemic. California must put their needs first in its recovery.”

“We’re urging the state to improve and streamline how California’s child care system works. We’re demanding to make quality child care more affordable so that all children have a chance to succeed in school, regardless of race, income, or zip code. And we’re insisting they come to the bargaining table ready to bolster the child care industry by ensuring child care jobs are good jobs,” said Max Arias, Chairperson of CCPU. “We need to see action this week to begin to partner on lifting providers into better-paying jobs and enabling them to stay open as Californians return to work.”

“With the help of parents and supporters across California, we can build a high-quality, affordable child care system that is available to all families, treats providers with respect, and combats the systemic sexism and racism often embedded in decisions made about child care,” added Patricia Moran, a child care provider from San Jose.

As it works to negotiate its first union contract, the union is asking the state to ensure providers have access to fair benefits like health care, retirement plans, and adequate sick leave and time off. They are also asking it to invest in a state-supported education fund that will allow providers to gain new knowledge and skills on emerging topics—all while keeping child care affordable and accessible to working families.

Union members are also asking the state to fund more child care vouchers for families, make a permanent end to family fees, and create more child care capacity statewide. Child care providers would also like to be able to expand hard-to-find child care for families needing help on weekends and evenings or for children who have special needs, by increasing pay for providers offering these services.

The union is also seeking to improve transparency and communication between the state, local organizations, parents, and providers so that everyone receives the same information regarding state policies, and to ensure there are no interruptions in care by eliminating any administrative delays in paying providers.

“Adriana,” a child care provider in Los Angeles for 19 years, said in a web posting that she has been providing children with a quality early learning program in Boyle Heights. “Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., I provide child care for hardworking families who are on the frontlines as nurses, assistants, and aides,” she said. “I am proud to provide children with a quality early learning program and give working parents peace of mind. But sadly, my daycare is in the middle of a child care desert. Our neighborhood has never had enough child care providers to cover the needs of families.

During this crisis, family child care providers, like me, have been the ones supporting distance learning and giving children stability by helping them with their schoolwork, keeping them on track while online, and investing in cleaning equipment to keep them safe,” she continued. “To do my job to the best of my ability, I had to use every penny I gained to purchase additional pencils, paper, ink, desks, headphones, whiteboards, ethernet cables, and hot spots. I have also made investments in cleaning, sanitation, and protective equipment. But I have struggled with the extra costs to keep up with the demand. I know during this crisis; many providers have struggled, and many have had to close their doors. This has only made the child care desert worse. I have mothers who are desperately trying to figure out how they can afford care for not one, but three of their children, while they are working.”

CCPU said it will continue to propose solutions to the state that will set up California’s child care infrastructure to lead the nation in providing the best possible early childhood care.

“It’s now up to the state to sit down, listen, and come prepared to work with these frontline experts,” the union said.