By Doris Easley
A loud call by family child-care providers from all over California for the right to collective bargaining was clear throughout the state as nearly 300 family child-care providers, parents, children and supporters descended on the state capitol urging lawmakers to ensure affordable and quality childcare for all.
Family child-care providers with SEIU Local 521, SEIU Local 99 and UDW-AFSCME joined Assembly Member Monique Limón (D–Santa Barbara) as she introduced Assembly Bill 378—The Building a Better Early Care and Education System Act—during the Child Care for All Rally in Sacramento on Feb. 6.
“We are rallying around the importance of childcare, the importance of having the providers at the table and ensuring that this Act moves forward,” said Limón. “We are ready to be in every legislator’s office to ensure that they know that this is a must. We can’t just increase spots without also having the providers at the table to ensure that the spots we’re increasing are going to yield those dividends that state investments make for every child.”
AB 378 will allow at least 40,000 early childhood educators to join care providers in 11 other states who are able to negotiate with the state for improvements to the early childhood education system.
One of those family child-care providers is SEIU Local 521 member Maricela Cortez, who has provided early care and education to children in Parlier for more than 15 years. Family child-care providers throughout the state have been fighting to be recognized as a union for that long as well, and Cortez was thrilled to be present during the introduction of the bill.
“I was very excited because this was a new experience for me,” she said. “We were allowed to speak about the issues impacting our profession and were able to educate legislators on the work we do that helps keep parents working and the economy growing. During our conversations with legislators, we never heard a clear no, so that gives us hope that this is the year we will win.”
Providers need a seat at the table to have a strong voice on issues affecting the early care and education system, including access. Low-income children and families cannot afford the rising cost of childcare—which is now estimated at as much as $14,000 a year per child in California—and providers need to be able to support their own families as they currently do not receive health benefits and earn low wages paid by the state.
“It was empowering to visit with our state lawmakers, where we had the opportunity to talk about and show the crucial work that we, as family child-care providers, do every day for California children and families,” said Nancy Harvey, a family child-care provider in Oakland and SEIU Local 521 member. “We now expect to see whole value put behind words through full-fledged support of AB 378.”
Join the movement to build a better early care and education system for California children by signing the petition at seiu521.org/ccpetition.
Family child-care provider and SEIU Local 521 member Doris Easley has been an early care educator in Fresno for more than 14 years. Contact her at email@example.com.