Labor Group Renews Effort to Unionize Child Care Providers

During the recession, state funding for early childhood programs like preschool was severely cut -- and those funds haven’t been restored. (Getty Images)

With a new governor taking office, a powerful California labor group is renewing its push to unionize some in-home child care providers. The Service Employees International Union says it will again sponsor legislation to unionize in-home child care providers who care for children receiving state subsidies.

Similar efforts have been vetoed over the years by Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who both cited potential costs when they were governor. But incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he’ll make early childhood care and education a priority for his administration.

“He also sees the workforce as a key component in that, and making sure that we're investing in the workforce," said Mary Gutierrez, strategic campaigns director with SEIU. "So his approach to early care and education is much more holistic than we've seen in governors in the past.”

Gutierrez said state subsidies for in-home child care providers pay on average $6 to $7 an hour, and providers aren’t covered by workers' compensation or minimum wage rules.

“We also have to make sure that the folks that are taking care of these kids have the tools to provide for their own families," Gutierrez said. "And so that, for us, means giving these workers the right to unionize."

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SEIU already has allies on the issue in the Legislature, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. He previously authored similar legislation in 2013.  It died in the state Senate. With a potential new ally in the governor’s office, Gutierrez is hopeful that a bill allowing these workers to unionize will finally become law this year.