Tens of Thousands of California Child Care Providers Vote to Unionize

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The vote was made possible after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last fall allowing family child care providers who are paid by the state, and who serve low-income families, to unionize. (Getty Images)

More than 40,000 child care providers across California can now bargain with the state for better pay and benefits after voting overwhelmingly to unionize on Monday.

The victory comes after years of fighting to win the right to bargain in an industry that is notorious for low pay and long hours.

"We want and deserve a seat at the table and the state will now recognize us," said Nancy Harvey, who runs a child care facility in West Oakland.

Ninety-seven percent of those babysitters, early childhood educators and home day care providers — mostly women of color — who voted by mail-in ballot, voted to become Child Care Providers United.

"As a child I witnessed first-hand seeing the Black Panther Party marching for justice and equality a block away from my home. And here I am today, 58 years young, fighting for some of the same issues that folks were fighting for in the '60s," Harvey said.

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The vote was made possible after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last fall allowing family child care providers who are paid by the state, and who serve low-income families, to unionize.

This decision to unionize comes as the pandemic has caused one in four child care facilities to close, according to a recent report from UC Berkeley.

The survey of nearly 1,000 providers found that a majority – 80% – are taking care of less children due to health and safety concerns due the pandemic, while centers are simultaneously seeing increased cleaning and staffing costs.

The governor's office authorized $100 million to support child care service providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

But that money isn't enough, according to the UC Berkeley report, and the industry will need a significant boost to stabilize.

Now, with the vote to unionize, child care providers across the state will be able to have a bigger say in their industry.

"This seat at the table means everything. It means everything for your economic security," said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "It means everything for your livelihood and the working families you serve and the affordable accessible child care system (California) needs to rebuild its economy."