Assembly Bill 378 was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in Sacramento Monday, giving child care workers in California the right to unionize.
Authored by Assemblywoman Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), AB 378 specifically allows self-employed child care workers to unionize. According to Assemblywoman Limón, it will also create a stable workforce by having higher wages, lessening the turnover rate in the industry.
“Child care providers help our economy by allowing working families and parents to report to work,” said Governor Newsom during the signing. “Creating quality jobs for the child care workforce makes economic and common sense. These workers care for our kids and we need to take care of them.”
Assemblywoman Limon also offered praise of the bill.
“This is a new era,” stated Assemblywoman Limón. “We have a new governor who cares a lot about child care.
AB 378 will create stability in California’s early care and education workforce. California runs a 24-hour-a-day workforce, but our child care options for working families do not meet that need nor support those who provide child care. This bill will change that.”
Since 2004, child care workers in California have been attempting to get the right to unionize and collectively bargain. The closest child care worker unionization had previously come to realization was AB 1164 in 2007, when it was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill over the cost, noting that provider reimbursement rates and training costs could harm the children themselves in the long run by reducing the number of kids at a center and reduce quality. This is especially notable since many workers now covered are unlicensed.
Other than the costs, many workers organizations have been split on the passage, with many praising the expansion of unions to child care workers, with others calling out unions who would benefit, most notably the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and saying it’s more about collecting fees and members for the long struggling union.
At the same time, one study found that two-thirds of children who qualify for child care subsidies don’t receive them. This shows a number of other problems in the system, such as providers not being able to find which kids are covered and government organizations not distributed subsidized child care efficiently – problems that could grow with the passage of AB 378.
Assemblywoman Limón has vowed to get more poorer families childcare while also raising quality. AB 378 does address it, but unions are a big question mark on whether they help more kids get better care, or they don’t.
Child care workers the Globe talked to were mixed on how they felt about the bill passage. Many praised being able to have union representation and being paid a fair wage, but others noted that we are in uncharted territory, and that there are high costs involved.
One child care worker, Angela Clarke, expressed worry over a point that was never even brought up.
“Some of us work for a family or a few families, and others in day care centers. Union rules always bow to seniority. I used to be a teacher, but I was laid off because their policy was first hired first fired, not based on quality. I’m really worried that it will be the same here – if cuts come, will union rules come into play and allow older but poor workers remain while younger and more skilled workers are let go. This is a huge concern, and now with everyone prepared to be unionized, this is a giant unaddressed concern.”
Despite several concerns, labor unions such as the SEIU have already started organizing child care workers across California.