Family child care providers in California were in Sacramento on Feb 5 to deliver over 8,000 signatures to file for their union. This brings child care providers one step closer to having a real voice and being able to bargain for higher pay, better training and real improvements that will help their families.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 378 just last fall, which set things in motion after 16 long years of fighting for recognition. Now child care providers can sense that all their hard work is paying off.
“Today we let California know providers are ready to vote YES for our union - the tool that will allow us to raise our rates, help working families get child care, and build the best early care and education system. I’ve waited 16 years for this moment and can say providers are ready to advocate for ourselves and the children we care for. Nothing will hold us back,” said Catalina Johnson, family child care provider from Bellflower, Calif.
Zoila Toma, a native of El Salvador and mother of three from Signal Hill, Calif., understands the hardships associated with being a child care provider. “These jobs don’t pay much. Let’s be honest...We’re not getting paid overtime. We’re not getting paid for sick days. We don’t have any help with medical [coverage]. We’re on our own ― completely on our own.”
But she is optimistic that joining together and forming their union will have much-needed benefits. Regarding how providers interact with the state, she said: “Sometimes they don’t listen to us...If we have this group of providers together going out there, they will listen. That’s why it’s very important. I believe unity creates movement, and movement creates change.”
While Catalina, Zoila and their fellow providers rallied and delivered signatures in the state capital, one day later another California child care provider was in the nation’s capital testifying before Congress. Nancy Harvey from Oakland spoke in front of a congressional subcommittee on the desperate need to address the child care crisis in the US. “Too often childcare providers struggle to keep our doors open and are not paid enough to provide for our own families," Harvey told the panel.
Harvey then listed three recommendations that would improve child care in the U.S.: expanding the federal child care program, increasing child care subsidy reimbursement rates so that they truly cover the cost of providing high-quality care, and giving providers a voice through a union. “For us, having a union means that we can raise up our profession and advocate for our communities and the children in our care,” she said.