“There were days when I seriously considered closing my doors”: One child care provider’s fight to survive the pandemic

March 16, 2022

With help from her union, CCPU-UDW member Susana Perez won retroactive pay and stability for her small business

Susana Perez loves what she does. As a family child care provider, she enjoys helping the young children in her care grow and prepare for pre-school, and she loves that by supporting local families, her work also uplifts her community. But after nearly 15 years, the job hasn’t been without its struggles.

She found her passion for caring for young children while working as a pediatrician’s assistant. When her family moved from Carson to Beaumont in search of an affordable home of their own, Susana left the clinic and began caring for her neighbor’s children while continuing to care for her own. The need for care in her community grew, and soon enough she decided to open her own family child care business.

The business was doing so well, in fact, that two years ago Susana’s husband retired early to help her with the daycare, making it the only source of the Perez’s income.

“When COVID-19 struck, I became one of the sole supports for local families in an unprecedented pandemic,” Susana said. “I was not only caring for their children but acting as a resource to families who had nowhere else to turn.”

Susana kept her doors open and helped the children in her care adapt to virtual learning. When they went back to in-person learning, she added school pick-up and homework help to her program. Times were tough, but Susana had her union and her fellow child care providers to lean on: CCPU-UDW provided her with constant updates about the pandemic and the PPE she needed to maintain a clean and safe home, while her fellow members offered support and solidarity.

But late last year, just as the Omicron variant began to spike, two of the children in her care moved away and another child, a two-year-old girl, was diagnosed with leukemia. Susana ended up with three unexpected vacancies in her program within the span of a few weeks, a catastrophic hit to her family’s income.

“There were days when I seriously considered closing my doors because it was so tough. So much fluctuated with the families I supported, and I ended up being down to five children in the daycare.”

Thankfully, her union was right behind her. With help from CCPU-UDW staff, Susana learned she could continue to hold a spot for her young client for up to six months and continue to receive pay. The young girl would be able to return to her care once she fully recovered.

But just a month later, the state decided to end the hold for the young girl’s spot in Susana’s daycare without notice, retroactive to the previous month—violating AB 603, a law our union helped pass to protect child care providers from this very situation.

Susana and our union jumped into action: After a few phone calls and emails with photos of the written notice dated well after the 14-day notice should have been sent, the agency agreed to pay Susana retroactive pay for December 2021.

This victory was a clear reminder to Susana about why we fight to win legislation like AB 603 and how child care providers—and all union members—are stronger when we work together. “I’m so grateful to have all this support and knowledge in my corner,” said Susana. “If I didn’t have a union, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything—I wouldn’t have even known what to do.” 

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