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Childcare Workers Win!

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Great news out of California.

Tens of thousands of California childcare providers are now eligible to join a union following a vote to create a bargaining unit that will represent them in negotiations over pay and working conditions.

A panel of California labor leaders announced the vote on Monday, marking an end to one of the nation’s largest labor campaigns in the past two decades.

According to the announcement, 97% of voters supported the effort to join a union. Cheers and claps followed soon after — a 17-year push that required a new state law.

“Today we will begin the formal fight for the dignity and the respect we deserve,” said Miren Algorri, a longtime day care worker from Chula Vista, in the livestream.

Licensed child care workers are responsible for the state’s early care and education programs and help families participate in the workforce. Research from UC Berkeley suggests that more than half of providers rely on some kind of government assistance to get by.

In recent months, the more than 40,000 workers faced even tougher straits as the labor market tightened and fears of the coronavirus pandemic kept children at home. That makes the unionization effort especially important, advocates said.

Survey results from UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment suggests that around 38% of California child care programs don’t have enough protective equipment to stay safe from the virus. More than three-quarters of child care centers that are currently open reported having fewer teachers than before the pandemic.

This should have happened years ago. The state legislature passed a law granting childcare workers the right to collective bargaining in 2011. And Jerry Brown vetoed it. Because he was terrible.

That it takes 17 years for workers to form a union is a sign of just how broken labor law in this country, both in terms of the NLRB for the private sector and the various laws and agencies of the states for the public sector. So this is a great victory that helps a lot of people–including parents who will see happier, better paid workers out of this law. But it’s also incredibly frustrating that such a campaign would take an entire generation.

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