No one would think of running a NASA space launch without listening to the astronauts and technicians who know how to make a flight plan. But when it comes to the child care system that literally shapes the future for the next generation, California has spent decades shutting out the voices of child care providers.
That is finally about to change after 16 years of organizing by dedicated child care providers like my mom, and now me. We’ve created our union, met with elected officials, and have earned our seat at the table with the State of California thanks to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature on the Building a Better Early Care and Education System Act by Assemblymember Monique Limón just last week.
Our victory makes history in California and it shows marginalized workers across the country that they have the power to fight back and get stronger when they stand together in union. With 40,000 family child care providers now able to hold an election to choose their union, a workforce that is mainly black, brown and Asian women who care for the children of some of the state’s lowest paid workers are now part of the largest organizing movement in the nation.
Making such a powerful change is exactly why my mom started advocating for collective bargaining rights nearly two decades ago. She put her heart into building a stronger child care system for child care providers, the children they serve, and the parents who count on us. When she would travel to Sacramento, San Jose, and San Francisco to talk to other providers and elected officials about why we needed a union, I was substitute teaching in her home child care business. I found my passion for the work she did, both as an educator and an advocate.
While many are quick to dismiss us our work, providers are truly early education professionals. We prepare educational materials for students, invest in their nutrition, and attend training and workshops to make sure we are using the best possible methods. We are proud professionals who stay involved in our communities and engaged with the children and families we serve. Though our work is critical, many of us have had to make sacrifices to keep our doors open.
All 14 of the children I care for receive state subsidies, and I have a full-time and a part-time assistant that help me keep my business open 24/7, serving parents who work long and irregular hours. I pay my assistants more than minimum wage because I recognize their value as educators, but the State of California hasn’t valued our worth. Without the ability to collectively bargain with the state, providers’ wages after expenses have steadily declined. I’ve seen providers who don’t have health insurance and can’t see a doctor when they get sick. They face a choice between going unpaid or continue working when they’re sick.
The platform we’ve created through our union means we’ll be in a stronger position to advocate for the parents and children we serve. From fighting to expand access to affordable child care for more families to securing the training we need to prepare children for even greater success in kindergarten and beyond, providing the best early education for children and supporting working parents who count on us will always remain at the heart of our work as child care providers.
When Newsom signed Assembly Bill 378, it felt like California finally recognized the value that we, as providers, bring to our communities. That’s the recognition my mom fought for, and it is a renewed opportunity for the children and families who count on me to succeed. I know the impact of this bill will be magnified exponentially because if even one provider is impacted in a positive way, their entire community will benefit as well.
I look forward to being at the table with the state and fulfilling a dream that seemed so distant for my mother. I know that she and other providers from her generation are cheering us on, and I cannot wait to see how our field continues to evolve as a new generation of providers uses this opportunity to continue transforming the lives of our youngest learners.
Miren Algorri is a member of Child Care Providers United, a joint project of UDW-AFSCME, SEIU 99, and SEIU 521.