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Child care providers file unfair practice charge against California

California child care providers held a large rally earlier this year in Sacramento to urge the state to provide urgent help. (Photo by David Myles)
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By David Myles ·

Members of Child Care Providers United (CCPU) have filed an unfair practice charge against the State of California, which has refused to work with providers as required under AB 378 to resolve critical challenges facing those struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and care for tens of thousands of children doing distance learning.

The providers’ action, announced Tuesday, aims to save a child care system in crisis before it collapses entirely and shuts the doors to thousands of small businesses owned primarily by women of color.

“Child care providers were barely getting by before the pandemic. Now, we’re not getting by at all,” said Charlotte Neal, a family child care provider for 19 years in Sacramento. “As this pandemic rages on and our challenges as providers mount, the state is not working with us to limit the impacts on providers and keep us in business or to ensure front-line workers have access to the care they need. We need action from the state. And we need it now.”

An unfair practice charge is a formal complaint filed with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the state agency responsible for enforcing collective bargaining laws. The goal of the complaint is to ensure that the state regularly communicates with child care providers and CCPU and works with them to expedite solutions to this crisis.

CCPU brings together over 40,000 family child care providers across California and is a partnership of SEIU Local 99, SEIU Local 521, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930.

Tuesday’s press conference was the culmination of several weeks of actions driven by CCPU members to bring attention to this crisis and urge state leaders to save California’s child care industry.

To help solve this crisis and better support working families, child care providers have asked the state to:

Instead of stepping up to support providers who have been pushed to the brink, the state has actually reduced some providers’ pay by forcing them to absorb the cost of family fees lost when parents keep children home to avoid COVID-exposure. The state has also since been unresponsive regarding a timeline for reimbursement.

The result, providers say, could be a future of child care deserts where thousands of children have nowhere to go. Child care providers and the families they care for are relying on the state to take action and support providers before it’s too late.

“Child care providers are the backbone of our economy,” said Johanna Puno Hester, vice chairperson of CCPU and assistant executive director of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930. “They perform essential work, especially as providers take on a more prominent role as facilitators of distance learning and care for the children of other essential and front-line workers.”

This year, more than 5,700 providers statewide have closed statewide due to COVID-19. These closures equate to a loss of over 60,000 state-subsidized child care spaces, leaving working families with minimal options.

“We need the state to collaborate with us as required by AB 378 (2019), which sets out a process to improve child care, including how to retain experienced providers,” said Max Arias, chairperson of CCPU and executive director of SEIU Local 99.

“We are filing an unfair practice charge … to enforce that process so that we can urgently reach an agreement with the state about how to keep child care open,” he added. “The state is shutting the door in our face, and we, in turn, are having to shut the doors on families around California. Let’s instead immediately figure out how to strengthen child care and support school students who are learning in family child care homes.”

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