Under Governor Newsom, the California Child Day Care Facilities Act gets its license to bargain at the big kids’ table this past week. The Governor signed into law AB 378 allowing  family childcare providers to form, join, and participate in union organizing for pay rates, reimbursement, training and personal development, grievance arbitration, strike and lockout provisions. Advocates hope the law will increase the wage for childcare providers and promote training opportunities meanwhile the state will be looking around for its wallet on this one.

Presently, California’s subsidized childcare system serves about 210,000 children from infancy to 13 years of age. The new law applies to more than 40,000 home-based childcare providers who care for eligible children, whose parents receive child care cost assistance from the state.

In addition to opening union participation to childcare providers, the law grants unions exclusive (read: mandatory) access to family childcare providers. The law requires the state to annually publish a list of all licensed child day care facilities, and the services for which each facility has been licensed or permitted. With this requirement, the unions can reach each childcare provider in the state. Further, the law requires mandatory access to unions at all preservice meetings or orientations held for family childcare providers by the state and the opportunity to make a presentation about the union, its activities, negotiations and membership at these state-sponsored meetings and orientations.

The Legislature’s fiscal committee estimates the first year alone will cost the state $100,000 to $200,000 for union elections and certification with another $5 million in union infrastructure and litigation for childcare providers. As for the reporting requirements to unions, the fiscal committee estimates “millions of dollars” annually to compile and update childcare provider information including new fulltime agency staff. Although the statutory language makes clear that childcare providers are not state employees, we can anticipate that this will continue to be an important and developing area in collective bargaining.

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