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California Child Care Providers Can Expect Higher Wages As Union Secures Agreement With State

In this image, a teacher helps a child with something on their tablet.
South Central family child care provider Jackie Jackson is part of the union's negotiations team.
(Jackie Jackson for LAist)
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About 40,000 California family child care providers expect to see higher wages next year through their union’s first collective bargaining agreement.

Child Care Providers United said Friday it reached a deal with state negotiators, pending ratification by members. Providers who care for kids in their home through state subsidy programs voted to unionize last summer after organizing for almost two decades.

“Providers … they really showed their power,” said union chair Max Arias. “They showed their passion. They showed how much they care about children, how much they care about families and the state itself. Through that push, I think we achieved some significant gains and improvements.”

Arias said the contract will increase the rates for providers around the state by at least 15%. It also includes $40 million for professional development and establishes a grievance process to settle any future disputes.

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“Our work is not yet done,” said Los Angeles family child care provider Justine Flores. “We will continue to fight. We will continue to achieve more.”

The agreement caps months of increasingly tense negotiations. Providers marched through San Diego, Los Angeles and as recently as last Thursday, the State Capitol, to demand higher pay.

A third of California’s family child care providers have shut down since 2008, in part because of low wages.

Since the start of the pandemic at least 2,952 family child care homes have shuttered permanently with thousands more closed temporarily, according to numbers provided to LAist by the California Department of Social Services.

So let’s unpack exactly how the raise will work.

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California sets the rates child care workers are paid to care for kids through its subsidy programs based on a survey of child care costs across the state.

Right now, providers are paid at the 75th percentile of the 2016 rate. For example, in L.A. County family child care providers get a maximum of $5.80 an hour for each infant who needs full-time monthly care.

A more recent 2018 survey exists and state law says it's the "intent" of the legislature to reimburse child care providers at the 85th percentile of the most recent survey. That intent hasn’t been the reality for the last three years.

The union’s agreement guarantees providers will be paid according to that newer 2018 survey, but still at the 75th percentile. Since the rates vary by region, the deal also includes an additional $289 million to ensure every provider gets at least that 15% raise starting in January 2022.

The agreement also paves the way to revamp the payment system, a move that some legislators and advocates already support.

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“It was a lot of work to get to the beginning of what we hope is a transformation for this industry in the state of California,” Arias said. “We also need to continue to push for increased federal funding.”