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California child-care providers fight to ‘retire with dignity’

Renee Kuykendall wakes up at 4 a.m. to prepare for the arrival of her first client. She won’t work with her last client of the day until 11pm

At her home in Antelope, just outside Sacramento, she makes enough eggs, sausages, baked goods, and toast for 13 people, served at 7 a.m. is spotless; She recently had a problem with boogers smeared on the wall.

Kuykendall, 60, has been running an out-of-home daycare business for nearly 20 years. When the long working days get too hard, she’ll be able to stop and remain financially stable, thanks to retirement savings from a previous career with the federal government.

But she worries for many of her colleagues, who say that, after years of low wages and no retirement benefits, they won’t have any savings at the end of the workday.

More than a year after California’s newly established childcare providers signed their first contracts with the state, the push to “retire with dignity” is at the top of the list of priorities. organization of 40,000 members.

“It’s not right that other people get these things and we don’t,” Kuykendall said over a chorus of children playing from the memory card. “It goes back to being between ‘babysitter’ versus babysitter. I am a business owner. I am amazed at how ignorant people are about what we do, and how we have their most precious possession. “

The state budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in June includes funding for a study related to potential retirement benefits for childcare providers who provide services. state-subsidized care in their home. What those real benefits will be, and the costs, are unknown and will have to be negotiated between state and union leaders – complicated negotiations that can drag on for years.

Meanwhile, people like Renaldo Sanders are feeling anxious about the future. Sanders, 69, has worked as a licensed childcare provider in Compton since 1993. Some of the children she cares for today are third generations in her care. from the same family.

One in five home-care workers in California is 60 or older, according to a survey conducted by the UC Berkeley Child Care Employment Research Center in 2020.

“The babies are getting heavier and heavier, noting the physicality of the work as she gets older,” Sanders said. “But I don’t have any physical limitations, knock on the wood, praise God.”

Sanders has no plans to retire early. Her financial backup plan is to sell the house.

“I didn’t give up the fund because I didn’t have the money available. She said. “There are emergencies. There’s always something else going on that I’ll have to take care of. “

According to the center, only 21% of California workers who work from home say they have some form of retirement savings. According to a report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, 46% of Californians working in the private sector plan to retire.

Nationally, lower-income workers are less likely to have access to retirement benefits.

If Childcare Provider United succeeds in securing a retirement vehicle for California’s in-home childcare workers – an industry dominated by women of color – this will be the basis. the first of its kind in the US

California offers CalSavers, a state-funded low-cost IRA for workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan. However, the program has been challenged in court with limits, including a contribution limit of $6,000 to $7,000 a year, depending on the age of participants.

That’s not the long-term solution the union is looking for, said Alexa Frankenberg, CEO of the Child Care Providers Association.

“It’s all about choice. People choose to work until they’re 80, and that’s great. But they shouldn’t be forced to do it. People are doing this because there’s no other way they can support themselves and their families after working in this field for decades, and that’s something we have to deal with,” she said.

Since Newsom signed it into law in 2019, the right to mutually agreed childcare providers – an effort over a decade vetoed by previous governors – the state has increased the rate .

Frankenberg praised Newsom for focusing on his childhood, but said the state has a long way to go, especially on the issue of pay.

In 2019, the median hourly wage for childcare workers in California was $13.41, according to the Child Care Employment Research Center.

Home health care providers are private, but receive state funding, because they provide subsidized child care to income-eligible families. Door-to-door payments vary depending on how much money the state provides must be spent on operating expenses, which can range from food and supplies to utility bills.

Annette Nicholson, 62, recently paid more than $600 to replace part of the fence around her home in Stockton so the kids she cared for would have a safe, enclosed playground to play in. She said her home purchase after expenses is about $15,000 a year, and the unexpected expense has eaten into her savings.

“Many of us are nearing retirement and we are all worried and scared,” she said. “There’s an age where I hope I can stop, but financially, I don’t know if I can do that.”

Camille Travis, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Human Resources, said the state supports the idea of ​​retirement benefits for providers but has not yet agreed on parameters with unions or state involvement.

“Obviously we’re committed to figuring out what it looks like,” she said. “This is the first step.”

Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) voted against legislation allowing childcare workers to cooperate and said he worries the cost to the state will become too much, especially in economic downturn. He points to state budget battles over benefits for low-income California homecare workers, aged and disabled caregivers. Since amalgamating in 2015, those carers have been guaranteed sick leave and paid overtime, increasing costs to the state.

“It looks great on the surface, but it turns into another government bureaucracy,” said Dahle, who is running for governor of Newsom in November. “Where we’re headed, they’re going to keep pushing costs through the roof, and that money is coming out of a taxpayer-funded general fund.”

Dion Aroner, a former Democratic state legislator from the San Francisco Bay Area who first tried to unionize child care workers in 2003.

“This is about underestimating the services these women of color provide based on a system that dates back 400 years, when black women cared for white children while they were still young,” she said. enslaved. “I don’t want to say that nothing has changed, because that’s not fair, but the basics of who’s taking care, and the blatant disrespect, remains the same.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-08/a-year-after-unionizing-california-child-care-workers-want-respect California child-care providers fight to ‘retire with dignity’

Edmund DeMarche

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