Pat Alexander: We’ve been fighting for this for 15 years and we can’t wait any longer

If anyone can call themselves an expert in Early Childhood Education, it’s CCPU-UDW member Pat Alexander. She’s been a childcare provider for 49 years, has multiple accreditations and has served on many child care boards. She’s also been active since 2002 organizing and advocating for her union of family child care providers.

Pat’s expertise has shown her that their years spent in childcare will affect kids in profound ways.

“Children’s brains are developing at an amazing rate during the first five years of their lives,” Pat says. “The experiences they have during those crucial years will shape their lives and their futures. And family child care providers are an important part of shaping these young minds.”

With the future on the line, child care providers are performing critical work benefits everyone in our society, not just the families we serve. But our pay doesn’t reflect our value.

“The professionals like me tasked with building these young minds make an average of $8 an hour,” Pat says. “We struggle to pay our own bills and to care for our own families.  We sacrifice a lot in order to work with these children and families. We lose good quality providers and early childhood teachers who must leave this field for other work.  It’s a shame.”

Alexander Preschool and Child Care in Elk Grove is the kind of place parents feel good about dropping their kids. Developmentally-appropriate play stations in bright colors await young imaginations and Pat maintains a friendly sense of order where learning and cooperation thrive. But, as fulfilling as Pat’s work is, it is hardly lucrative.

“We do this work because we love it. We want to give children the best start possible,” she says. “But I work 50 to 55 hours a week with the children in my program. After business expenses, my husband and I reported a combined $24,000 taxable income last year. That works out to about $4 per hour each.”

California will never recruit all the quality providers we need at $4 an hour. That’s why Pat joined CCPU-UDW: to fix California’s broken childcare system. She has travelled to the state capitol to attend rallies and hearings to pass AB 378, our bill that would recognize collective bargaining rights to family child care providers.

“Collective bargaining will give providers a platform to lift ourselves up,” Pat says. “It will allow us to advocate for long-overdue improvements and improve accessfor hundreds of thousands of parents who rely on childcare. And it will keep family childcare providers in the profession they love and attract more high-quality talent into the early childhood education field.”

For someone like Pat who has been in the field for 49 years and knows change must come sooner than later, there has never been a better time than now for providers to get their collective bargaining rights and take their seat at the table.

“We’ve been fighting for this for 15 years and we can’t wait any longer,” Pat says.

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