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Four hundred Child Care Providers United (CCPU) members, along with advocates, children, and parents were joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, CCPU Chairperson Max Arias, CCPU Vice Chairperson Johanna Puno Hester, CCPU Secretary-Treasurer Riko Mendez, and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski for a powerful march to the State Capitol today to demand Governor Newsom pay providers a living wage.
The marchers carried roses each containing a personal message to Governor Newsom, echoing the image that has symbolized more than a century of labor movements led by women in industries from sewing to mill work. “We want Bread and Roses, too,” the words coined by voting rights activist Helen Todd in 1910 and put into verse by James Oppenheim capture the movement of courageous women organizers, many of whom organized their workplaces while still not having the right to vote. Today, they inspire the Black and Brown women of California’s child care workforce in their fight to be recognized as the backbone of California’s economy. The hundreds of roses the providers delivered to Newsom’s office demonstrated that their fight for equity and just pay has yet to be realized even in our Democratically-led state.
Today’s event comes after providers have spent months negotiating their first collective bargaining contract with the State of California, only to be stonewalled in their pursuit of fair wages. The state still has not offered any substantial proposals to providers that acknowledge the poverty conditions that all providers are experiencing nor the crucial role these workers play in California’s economy. Although the Newsom Administration has expressed a commitment to historic new investments in child care, these investments are meaningless without immediate action to ensure a stable child care workforce.
Miren Algorri, a child care provider in San Diego, opened the press conference saying, “More than 5,000 providers have closed over the last year, causing lasting damage to the child care industry. How can the state expect providers to keep their businesses open and make ends meet on less than minimum wage? When I was younger, I watched my mother, a child care provider like me, struggle to make ends-meet while doing what she loves. She too endured low-pay and little to no benefits. Low pay and little benefits are two things family child care providers have dealt with for generations. It’s time to put an end to this cycle.”
“From the day I started my child care business to now, I have seen no meaningful increase in our wages. After expenses, I’m lucky if I make over minimum wage. Yet, the list of things that child care providers are expected to do has only grown. Over the last year, it’s been necessary to spend additional money on PPE, cleaning supplies, extra diapers, more food, and school material for children doing distance learning,” shared Annette Nicholson, a child care provider in Stockton. “But with so many expenses, how can we be expected to purchase what we need making less than minimum wage!? And how can I rebuild my savings that I exhausted while adapting to stay open for nurses and grocery store workers during COVID?”
The joint Assembly-Senate budget plan legislators sent to Newsom’s desk earlier this month included funding to support substantial pay increases for all providers.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shared the importance of Governor Newsom adopting the child care supports included in the legislature’s budget proposal saying, “this budget ask is more than just a numerical change in dollars for workers. It means a qualitative difference for them and the children they care for. It will strengthen and inspire providers, and support and inspire our children. It’s fair, it’s needed and that’s why we’re working together to make it happen.”
“Child care providers’ fight for dignity on the job and a living wage is part of a long, proud tradition of women organizing that stretches back over 100 years ago. To Chicago, when women sewers walked off the job to demand a fair contract. And to Lawrence, Massachusetts, when 30,000 female mill workers of over 50 nationalities went on strike to protest wage cuts. Just as they were inspired by that famous demand for “bread for all, and roses too” we march today for full rights for women and recognition of the essential work women workers do,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.
“I can’t think of a profession with a greater responsibility than family child care providers. You help sustain the economy by doing the work that makes other work possible. California working families trust you with the most precious thing in their lives – their children’s development, safety and well-being. I think that’s worth more than what the state is offering, don’t you? Don’t you think the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation in the world can do better?” implored AFSCME President Lee Saunders.
CCPU has spent the past year proposing solutions to the state that will set up California’s child care infrastructure to lead the nation in early childhood care. The union’s 40,000 providers say it’s now up to the state to sit down, listen, and act to support California’s child care system.
You can view the entire press conference here. Child Care Providers United brings together 40,000 family child care providers across California. More information on the campaign is available at https://www.childcareforall.org/.