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California child care workers union reaches agreement with state over pay

After much haggling, the Child Care Providers United (CCPU) today announced it had reached a contract agreement with the state on child care pay rates, which has been a sticking point in ongoing negotiations.  The agreement includes an increase in the subsidies providers receive from the state to care for low-income children, more funding for provider training, and new funding to allow more providers to become licensed, according to union officials.

“The work providers put in at the bargaining table will positively impact the lives of California’s children for decades to come and reinvigorate a workforce that has declined by almost half in the last thirteen years. I want to thank legislative leaders who stood by our side and the parents and children who joined the hundreds of providers all over the state in calling on Governor Newsom to reach the place we find ourselves at today,” said Max Arias, chairperson of CCPU, which represents about 40,000 child care workers across the state. “And finally, I want to thank Governor Newsom for hearing providers’ voices and sitting down with us to reach this final agreement.” 

Child care providers have long faced low wages and high costs and the pandemic has worsened the situation. Thousands of child care providers, a workforce dominated by women of color, shut down during the public health crisis and experts say it is becoming harder for families to find and afford the child care they need. 

“Rate reform and increased slots are important aspects of strengthening California’s early care and education system,” said Lea Austin, executive director of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. “Though ultimately, it’s imperative that reform and expansion also improve the pay and working conditions of the early education workforce – they are the linchpin of services and if we can’t recruit and retain a workforce, there is no viable child care system for children and families.”

State legislators recently proposed reforms to the state’s subsidy system that would raise and unify child care provider rates. The legislature’s proposal would raise the reimbursement rate to 85% of the 2018 regional market cost up from 75% of the 2015 rate, where it has long remained.

This new contract represents a compromise with a rate increase set at 75% of the 2018 cost, $289 million in a supplemental fund to increase provider pay that will ensure all providers get at least a 15% increase through June 2023 and $40 million in funding for education and training.

Union officials say it represents a victory for a workforce dominated by women of color.  In 2019, the governor signed legislation that gave 40,000 home-based child care workers the right to join a union and collectively bargain with the state.

“The collective bargaining agreement marks a new chapter in providers’ decades-long fight for fair pay and recognition for their pivotal role in early brain development, closing opportunity gaps faced by children of color, and leveling the playing field for working women,” said Arias.