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California Child Cares Are Closing At An ‘Alarming Rate.’ A Newly Formed Union Is Pushing For Emergency COVID-19 Relief

Two of the 10 kids that arrive at Jackie Jackson's family child care in Los Angeles each day. Parents are no longer permitted to enter her home when they drop off or pick up their children per coronavirus safety guidelines. (Courtesy Jackie Jackson)
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California’s new child care provider union faces an unprecedented challenge: negotiating a labor contract while stemming a surge of pandemic-caused coronavirus closures.

Providers who care for kids from low-income families in their homes through California's subsidy program voted this summer to unionize after almost two decades of organizing.

“Our approach is twofold,” said Child Care Providers United Chair Max Arias. “Stabilizing the industry, and thinking a little ahead at what's needed from now, until the time that we return to whatever would be considered COVID-free.”

More than 2,000 home child care providers across the state have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic. Thousands more shut down temporarily.

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Many providers were already in a vulnerable place to begin with. In L.A. County, the average pay for home child care providers is $11.73 an hour. Almost half of early educators here participate in a public assistance program.

“A lot of what you earn in it is based on the ability of families to pay, and if you're serving low- and lower-income families, and you don't have public money, then you're going to be making less,” said Marcy Whitebook, director emerita of UC Berkeley's Center For the Study of Child Care Employment.

California is one of a dozen states where providers have collective bargaining rights.

“What they've asked for in other states is essentially a seat at the table to make suggestions to the state that would benefit the children and the parents,” said Dario Valles, a teaching fellow at Columbia University who completed a doctoral dissertation about California caregivers.


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