SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a historic vote, thousands of California child care workers are now eligible to join the Child Care Providers United union.
One member of the new union, Charlotte Neal, said this could not have been formed at a better time as her profession struggles to make ends meet during the pandemic.
Neal has been a child care provider for 19 years, and for the first time in her career, she can finally call herself a union member.
“It’s a long time coming. I’m excited because now child care providers have a voice and we are essential workers,” Neal said.
She’s been fighting to be a part of a union for 16 years, and now, she says she’s ecstatic to finally have a seat at the table. The Child Care Providers United union, or CCPU, plans to negotiate with the state for higher wages, health care coverage, and a retirement plan.
“We want to make sure we equip our kids to the best of our abilities, but we need training, we need education, we need more funding for ourselves,” Neal said.
Neal is licensed to take care of 14 kids, but due to the pandemic, she’s currently watching three. She runs a 24-hour day care center, which means she starts her day at 4 a.m. and oftentimes ends up working past midnight.
“It’s a lot of work. Sometimes we use our own money to keep our kids and our businesses going,” she said.
These days, Neal is taking extra precautions at her day care. She gets tested for coronavirus frequently and she no longer allows parents inside of her facility.
“I have a lot of day care providers — sisters and brothers — that do not have any health care, so they can’t afford to get sick, they can’t afford to get COVID-19, so it’s a risk every single day,” Neal added.
As for CCPU’s next steps, union members will soon meet to discuss their needs before beginning bargaining with the state. “It’s been hard, but we made it. We formed the union even in a pandemic,” Neal said.
Ultimately, she says it took a strong team and a lot of time to make the union into a reality.
“A lot of providers at one point didn’t think that we could make it, but as we came together we encouraged each other, inspired each other...if we don’t fight for our kids and our businesses, who will?,” she added.
Now, anyone who is a licensed child care provider can join the union. Neal says she’s excited to keep fighting for more benefits and training, but this time, as a united union.