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Child care workers need a voice on the job.

The following story was inspired by the testimony SEIU Local 99 member and Family Child Care Provider Betty Miller gave at the state Assembly’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education tour of Cerritos College’s Child Development Center.

My name is Betty Miller and I’ve been a family child care provider in Carson for 23 years. I’m also a member of SEIU Local 99.

When I was in high school, I took part in the preschool training program and loved it so much that I went straight to El Camino College after I graduated and earned my A.A. degree in early childhood development. I love working with children. They keep you laughing and they keep you on the move. It’s perfect for an energetic person like me.

For more than a decade, I worked in a child care center. But I decided to open my Family Child Care home in 1994. I wanted to create a comfortable, cozy home-away-from-home environment with good, hot meals. We also have a very academic environment. A lot of music and dance and creative activities. It’s very language-rich and filled with love and praise. We have a “magic circle” that emphasizes sharing. The children learn caring, love and respect. We go on a lot of field trips and my daycare is very multicultural, with Korean, Latino, Black and White children.

But it’s not easy. There’s not a lot of support for us out there. And we really need a voice in our industry. We need a voice in how licensing works. We need a voice in our rates. We need a voice in how we work with agencies. I joined my union because I was disappointed with the broken child care system in California that doesn’t work for families and doesn’t work for child care providers.

I want to continue to provide quality child care. It’s so important for my community. But low wages, no real voice on the job and a lack of resources to support the children in my care makes it very difficult. That’s why so many of us end up closing our doors, which makes California’s child care system so unstable.

Some days I wonder how long I can continue doing this work at such personal sacrifice. But then I think about the children and their families who I care so deeply about. This has got to change.

Child care workers need a voice on the job. We all need a union and the right to collectively bargain with the state for improvements.

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