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California child care providers get 'historic' deal

Members of the Child Care Providers United union rally in San Diego, Calif. May 8, 2023.
Tania Thorne / KPBS
Members of the Child Care Providers United union rally in San Diego on May 8.

For months, members of the California Child Care Providers United union rallied and marched for better pay and benefits, taking their demands to Sacramento as their contract was set to expire.

As Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the California budget on June 30, an agreement was reached, giving the union's more than 40,000 members a pay raise.

For the next two years, the state budget allocates $600 million for pay raises in the form of increased subsidy rates for caregivers contracted by the state to provide subsidized care.


Ivonne Bejar, of Child Care Providers United, said it was a great start.

"The rates we were getting paid were very low, and, despite COVID and inflation, we hadn't had a pay increase since 2012," she said in Spanish. 

The new agreement also includes something providers had never had before: funds for retirement and health care.

"There are many providers that are over 75 years old and they're still working because they don’t have the luxury of retiring," Bejar said. "How would they pay their bills?"

"A historic victory" is how Johanna Puno Hester with the union's San Diego chapter, UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, described the agreement.


"This is the highest rate increase they've ever received, at 20%," she said, outlining what's in the deal. "Their historic retirement funded by the state at $80 million ongoing, and a health care benefit that's at $101 million ongoing."

She said she hoped this would strengthen the San Diego workforce and child care industry after a 20-year fight. "This is a moment to really celebrate," she said.

San Diego City Councilmember Raul Campillo has supported the union’s movements. "Frankly, the people who take care of our oldest citizens and our youngest citizens are not paid enough for how difficult a job it is," he said. "You have to be very patient you have to be physically fit. You have to have the the smarts of all the different things it takes to care of a senior citizen or an infant or child, and they don't get paid nearly enough."

Ultimately, he said, "all that does is it makes the environment better because seniors get better treatment and the children get better programming young in their lives."

Members will be voting from July 19 until the end of the month to finalize the agreement.

The child care industry has long been in crisis, and COVID-19 only made things worse. Now affordable, quality care is even more challenging to find, and staff are not paid enough to stay in the field. This series spotlights people each struggling with their own childcare issues, and the providers struggling to get by.