After 16 years of rallies, house meetings, legislative lobby days, marches, speak outs, and testimonies, child care providers – including many members of SEIU Local 99 – have just won the right to collectively bargain a contract with the state! Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Building a Better Early Care and Education System Act (AB 378) by Assemblymember Monique Limón into law on September 30, 2019.

“This is truly a historic day. With the passage of this legislation, the child care workforce is closer to having the opportunity to sit down with the state and improve the child care system so it becomes the best in the nation,” said Tonia McMillian, a Provider from Bellflower and SEIU Local 99’s Treasurer. We will work to ensure every child–regardless of his or her background or neighborhood–has the chance to succeed. Child care providers are ready to lead for change.”

A voice to advocate for a better livelihood and more access to quality care

There are 40,000 child care providers who care for children that receive subsidized child care in California. The median income for these providers is $12 an hour, but some licensed providers make as little as $5 an hour per child. Fifty-eight percent rely on government assistance programs to support their families. And only 15 percent of child care providers receive health insurance from their job. With low pay, cuts to state subsidies, and a lack of benefits, child care providers struggle to keep their doors open, and parents pay the price by losing their trusted caregivers with little or no notice.

AB 378 allows family child care providers to negotiate a contract with the state for improvements to the child care system, such as expanding access to child care for working families, improved training, increasing the standards of quality care, and negotiating for pay that can support their own families. Child care providers are overwhelmingly women of color, including many immigrants, whose important work – taking care of and educating young children – was never recognized by our laws, until today!

SEIU Local 99 Providers are part of a statewide partnership with CCPU

But even without a law recognizing their important role in the system, providers have not waited and over the last 15 years they have formed their union with Child Care Providers United (CCPU), a statewide partnership between SEIU Locals 99 and 521 and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. Together, they’ve made some gains to improve pay rates and increase child care slots. Now, with the power to negotiate with the state, they are poised to win big and lasting changes for themselves and the working families they serve.

So, what comes next?

With the passage of AB 378, providers can move forward to have a union election to demonstrate that a majority of providers want a voice at the decision making table. At SEIU Local 99, which represents providers in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties, we’ll be working with our partners at CCPU to bring more providers into our union so when we sit down with the state, we show we have one united and powerful voice.

Read more about providers’ campaign to win quality, affordable child care for all.