Things That Matter

Meet The Organizers Fighting For Childcare Providers Who Are Struggling To Get By

Rebecca Garcia/SEIU

In honor of Labor Day, mitú is running a short series highlighting childcare providers in California and those affected by struggles with childcare. One in three providers in California are Latina. They and others are fighting for a fairer wage, collective bargaining within the government and many other issues.

It’s a cool Friday evening at a Ramona Duran’s house in Long Beach, California, where in her back room she runs Ramona’s Daycare. The daycare serves 14 children from the community, with Duran and her assistant taking on the task of teaching them the vital basics, like their ABC’s, 123’s and colors, as well as important lessons in caring, socializing and understanding the world. Duran’s daycare is more than just a waiting room for children who need a place to stay until their parents can pick them up after work. She takes pride in the special bond she has with the children and parents that she provides childcare.

“The beautiful part is that you receive all the love from the children, the love of the parents,” she says. “They’re grateful to you. You see that they love you.”

CREDIT: Childcare providers meeting at Ramona Duran’s home. Photo credit: Rebecca Garcia/SEIU

Love is what pushes providers to do the work they do and to continue working within a system that’s unreasonably complicated and devalues their work. Childcare providers struggle to get by on less than minimum wage, working upwards of 75 hours a week for as low as $2 an hour. Read our first installment in this series to learn more about childcare provider’s wage struggles.

Love, unfortunately, doesn’t pay the $500 in food many pay per week to feed the children in their care. Love doesn’t cover the rent and high utility bills, the diapers and baby wipes or the educational toys their kids learn and play with. It doesn’t provide them savings for retirement, health insurance or worker’s compensation if they get hurt. And love doesn’t ensure they’re paid on time or even at all.

A group of 20 or so women have gathered at Ramona’s house to discuss these struggles and many others they face as childcare providers. Many have brought their children and grandchildren with them, unable to find childcare for themselves to attend this meeting.

The women are all members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), working together and supporting one another in their fight to sustain themselves and their families. And it is a fight.

CREDIT: Maria Duque leading the meeting with childcare providers. Photo credit: Rebecca Garcia/SEIU

At the head of this meeting is Maria Duque, a 26-year-old organizer for SEIU Local 99. In her pink jeans and purple SEIU t-shirt, Duque stands before the women, fielding their questions, providing information and maintaining order when the providers go off on an agency, the lack of pay or one of the other problems they’re facing.

“As a union, we’re here to help each other, ask questions and share what we learn,” she tells them.

Duque, along with Jovanna Hernandez, 26, and Marianna Arrellano-Renteria, 48, are all organizers with SEIU Local 99, working on the childcare providers campaign to help providers win collective bargaining rights with the state that would enable them to negotiate a living wage, access trainings that would provide better early care and education and to fight for greater access to affordable childcare for families. Sitting inside their LA headquarters, an old Victorian house covered in posters from actions and marches they’ve led, the organizers discuss their work and the women they fight for.

Duque is originally from Ecuador. She came to the U.S. with her family as an undocumented immigrant when she was five. She didn’t realize she was undocumented until she was seven. Her father set up plans of action for Duque in case he and his wife were deported. Years later, Duque’s brother was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“When I saw what happened to my brother, it put things in perspective of how difficult it is to live in this country as an undocumented person,” she says. “That was around the time I started organizing, because I understood that it’s the only way that you can change things and fight towards something better.”

Hernandez was born and raised in East Los Angeles to undocumented parents. Her two older sisters are DACA recipients. Seeing her sisters struggle in the shadows of their citizenship status while she freely could pursue a college education and scholarships made Hernandez realize her privileges. She’s been organizing since high school, charged by the proposed 2006 bill H.R. 4437, which attempted to raise penalties for illegal immigration and classify undocumented immigrants and anyone who helped them enter or remain in the US as felons. Her mother also served as a community representative at Hernandez’s school, advocating for students and parents and leading meetings.

“This all led me to be responsible with my privileges,” she says.

Hernandez now works for the same union that represented her mother; the union that won her mother death benefits. Those benefits allowed Hernandez and her sisters to get a college education after her mother died on the job. She now works to ensure childcare providers and their families can get the benefits that will protect them and their families.

CREDIT: Posters at SEIU Local 99. Photo credit: Alex Zaragoza/mitú

Arrellano-Renteria has been on the childcare providers campaign the longest, since 2010. Her parents were both active union members. She became an organizer while working at a cemetery back in 1999, after seeing the poor treatment and inhumane conditions the Latino workers endured on the job and the degradation they received from management. One of those workers would become her husband.

“I realized someone had to step up,” she says. “So I started funneling information to the workers, assisting them and translating stuff for them.”

As Arrellano-Renteria puts it, she is happiest when she’s helping others.

The meetings they host don’t only serve to inform the providers. They also give them a space to spend time with one another. There they can see they’re not alone in their struggles.

“It’s a very lonely industry. You’re working in your own home space. Even though they were kind of all over the place, it was beautiful,” recalls Duque of the meeting at Duran’s home. “They hadn’t seen each other for a while and were finally engaging and talking about problems they’re having with the agencies. I think one of the big components of the house meetings is the chance to connect with each other.”

Leading meetings is no easy feat, but organizers have their way of ensuring everyone is heard and walks away empowered in the knowledge they receive. It’s how they can find strength in numbers, and push each other to fight for their collective progress.

CREDIT: Marianna Arrellano-Renteria at SEIU Local 99. Photo credit: Rebecca Garcia/SEIU

“We’re here working for these women,” says Hernandez. “So the meetings that take place are because providers thought information was important to provide to other women.”

The work of an organizer is slow. It’s pushing at a wall that doesn’t want to budge in the hopes that you can move it even an inch, because that inch can mean a better life and societal progress for the marginalized and disenfranchised.

The work is wrought with disappointments, and also victories that keep them pushing forward. Organizers and providers have worked hard to get bills passed the House of Representatives and Senate. But once their bills make it to the governor’s desk, they’re vetoed almost immediately. Then providers and organizers start all over, vowing to continue until they win.

They saw this just last year with the veto of Senate Bill 548, which would inform providers about training opportunities and help them form and join provider organizations to share their common concerns and advocate for improvements to the state-funded child care system, according to the bill.

“Even with all these obstacles, they’re resilient,” says Duque. “I remember the day after the veto, the providers and union leaders were all clearly affected, but they’re still resilient. They’re still here. There’s that understanding that you’ve still got to fight.”

“That’s why they’re so inspiring. There’s so many problems. Nobody cares about you. Nobody gives funding to you,” says Hernandez. “Yet this work is important. Just because nobody gives more funding or fixes these problems, doesn’t mean that the problems don’t exist. And these providers think, ‘Well, we’ve got to keep moving forward even when we see a bunch of doors shut all the time. We’ll find a window open.’”

CREDIT: Jovanna Hernandex (left) and Maria Duque at SEIU Local 99. Photo credit: Rebecca Garcia/SEIU

There’s no question for the organizers about the need for this work to be done. As Hernandez puts it, the injustices and broken system don’t disappear if they stop organizing. Someone has to do this work, and for her, it’s all she’s ever known. In effect, childcare providers and organizers do their work for the same reasons: because they love those they work with and understand that they provide an important service that benefits children, parents and communities that struggle with poverty and low resources.

“That’s our job, our conversations: to make them feel empowered,” says Hernandez. “To make them realize they have power to change things so they speak up and take action.”

As Arrellano-Renteria puts it, the devaluing of the childcare provider’s work often becomes internalized.

“It isn’t until recently through all the work that we’ve been doing that providers themselves are starting to take notice and say ‘I’m not a babysitter. I just never thought about it,’” she says. “Or ‘I am an educator.’ Perpetuating the same stereotypes that the general public would have had for them is part of the problem. Now all providers are hip to that.”

Early education is proven to be a vital part of a child’s development, often setting their path for success in education and their later careers. Education is instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty in communities of color and low-income communities. There are plenty of organizations and campaigns that champion early education, like Head Start and First 5. However, childcare providers are often forgotten in the discussion of early education, despite serving as early educators to countless children. Their work can mean the success of a little person who was born into the world already at a disadvantage. As Hernandez puts it, “If you fix education, you can fix poverty.”

“Early education is so important. There’s a reason why at higher education institutions, the demographic makeup looks a specific way,” she adds. “And that’s because not everyone has the same opportunities in early education. I think once they’ve entered a school, it’s already too late. They need to know their colors, their numbers, their letters, and childcare providers teach this to the children.”

And so organizers fight to protect them and ensure they can do their work, sustain themselves and be present in the creation of the legislature that will affect their lives and the lives of the children and parents. Especially considering their selflessness.

“One of the providers I spoke to yesterday was telling me how she can’t charge a private family what the agency is paying her,” says Duque. “She says ‘Whatever the mom can pay, with that we can make it work.’ They’re selfless. They do the work they do because not only do they love it, but because they’re there for the children.”

“That’s why I’m out there assisting providers to really focus on themselves and what they do as educators,” adds Arrellano-Renteria. “Because one provider with a house of 14 kids, they’re the ones that are superheroes going out and changing lives. If I can inspire the provider, the provider is going to change the world.”

The organizers have their eyes set on 2018, when the California gubernatorial seat and other important seats in the different houses of government will be open for midterm elections. They plan on backing candidates that will fight for providers and give them that collective bargaining power. And while they’ve seen disappointment, the organizers believe it can happen.

“This campaign is all about faith,” says Hernandez. “Reason doesn’t get us anywhere. Clearly, families are in need, children are in need. Reason would give us funding, but this all about ‘do you value this work?'”


READ: Childcare Providers Are Fighting For Their Livelihoods And A Seat At The Table

Like the second installment of our Childcare Providers series? Then make sure to share by clicking that button below!

Dolores Huerta Was Just Detained For Protesting For Workers’ Rights In Fresno County

Things That Matter

Dolores Huerta Was Just Detained For Protesting For Workers’ Rights In Fresno County

Dolores Huerta is one of the best-known and relentless labor organizers in the U.S. Her career fighting for workers’ rights spans decades and her work is nowhere near done. Today, the 89-year-old activist was detained while protesting the treatment of In-House Supportive System workers in Fresno County who have been negotiating a pay raise for years. Here’s what went down during the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Fresno County Hall of Records.

Dolores Huerta kept her chin up in defiance as she was escorted, in plastic handcuffs, from a Board of Supervisors meeting in Fresno County.

Credit: laloalcaraz / Twitter

According to the Fresno Bee, Huerta was one of several protesters demanding that the Fresno Board of Supervisors approve a respectable raise for In-Home Supportive System (IHSS) employees.

The IHSS program “helps elderly, blind and disabled people to safely remain in their own homes when they are not able to fully care for themselves or handle routine household tasks,” reads the website. “IHSS encourages independence and self-reliance, when possible, and is an alternative to out-of-home care in institutions or nursing facilities.”

IHSS employees offer clients services like housekeeping, meal prep, laundry, bathing, and accompanying patients to medical appointments, to name a few.

Huerta and other protesters filled the Fresno County Hall of Records to voice their demands to those making the decisions.

Credit: @DaryRezani / Twitter

According to the Fresno Bee, the IHSS workers currently make the minimum wage, which is set at $12 an hour. The labor union has been negotiating a pay raise for the workers for years and the Fresno Board of Supervisors was set to approve a 10-cent per hour raise. That is what sparked the protest demanding a proper wage increase.

According to the Fresno Bee, more than 17,000 people in Fresno County rely on caregivers and that number is expected to reach 106,000 by 2030.

People are absolutely celebrating the activist for her unapologetic stance for laborers.

Credit: @AshleySayWhatt / Twitter

Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers, back in in 1962 and used her activist knowledge to fight for better working conditions for farmworkers in Delano, California. Since then, Huerta has been an example of activism and her fight for the most vulnerable in the employment community has continued.

Her reputation as a strong woman has become an irrefutable characteristic of the activist.

Credit: @Castror14 / Twitter

Señora Chingona, indeed. Huerta has been arrested several times as part of her activism. She has even used her voice and name to fight for what she thinks is right in politics. Her activism was on full display during the 2016 elections as people mobilized to fight for the Latino community.

The protesters at the Fresno Board of Supervisors meeting today were optimistic about their ability to exact change.

Protesters joyfully chanted, “We believe we can win” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages have got to go.” The protesters were effective in getting the attention of the board. The protest was disruptive enough that the meeting was recessed for 10 minutes just 30 seconds after they began chanting. The Fresno Bee called the protest ill-timed but the protesters knew they had the attention of those in charge.

“They are finalizing the budget in September. We want to make sure they put us in the budget for a wage increase,” organizer Ua Lugo told the Fresno Bee. “So today is very important.”

Despite numerous people being detained, the protesters continued in their fight.

“It should not come to this. It should not come to this,” protester Martha Valladarez told the Fresno Bee about caring for her daughter with Down Syndrome while officers placed plastic cuffs on her. “They have no idea the love that we have for our family members.”

Huerta was released shortly after being detained and she was greeted with a cheering crowd for her willingness to keep protesting.

What do you think about Dolores Huerta being detained for her protest in Fresno?

READ: Dolores Huerta The Latina Freedom Fighter Who Taught Us ‘Sí Se Puede’ Has Been Arrested Over 20 Times

Boricuas Are Using Makeup To Protest Governor Ricardo Rosselló And Highlight The U.S.’s Horrifying History Of Colonialism

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Boricuas Are Using Makeup To Protest Governor Ricardo Rosselló And Highlight The U.S.’s Horrifying History Of Colonialism

Since last week, protests have erupted all over Puerto Rico as the island’s population campaigns to remove the current governor of the United States territory. After many government scandals, Governor Ricardo Rosselló has finally agreed to step down and resign from his post. The disgraced head of government is expected to hand over control of the island to Puerto Rico’s new Progressive Party. This comes after controversy following leaked private chats revealing the governor and his inside circle making mocking and degrading comments. It also precedes federal agents arresting members of Rosselló’s administration for alleged fraud and money laundering.

Thousands of Puerto Rican protesters flooded the streets of the island — chanting and demanding resignation. Celebrities like Bad Bunny and Ricky Martin flew to the island to join in the protests. Even Puerto Ricans in mainland America took to the streets in elaborate displays, doing the electric slide to the blaring music that accompanied the gathering.

All of these factors helped to rectify this unjust situation in PR but we would be totally in the wrong if we did not acknowledge the powerful makeup and face painting that also rallied resistors.

Twitter / @oppsyirwin

Twitter User Shaly Torres made it her mission to keep non-Spanish speakers in the loop with what is happening in Puerto Rico. In a thread pinned to her account, the Puerto Rican make up enthusiast shared pictures and information about the ongoing riots. In her thread, there was a common theme of showcasing protesters and their creative way of using makeup to express their demands.

In it, she encouraged makeup artists to take a stand with the protesting Puerto Ricans and don bold make up looks in support of their struggle.

Twitter / @oppsyirwin

It doesn’t take a lot to show your support for a movement. You don’t even have to be in the same area that a protest is impacting. Thanks to social media and the internet, we can connect with people across the world and understand their feelings. We can show them our support in both small and significant ways and that is what Torres encouraged in her post.

Across Twitter and Instagram, makeup artists and enthusiasts showed off their official face paint to honor the protesters in Puerto Rico.

Twitter / @melolops

To protest the sexual violence, fraud, and abuse that the corrupt Puerto Rican government has been perpetuating, some artists scrawled abusive words over their bodies and faces. This Twitter makeup artist painted the Puerto Rican flag upon her face near the word “Enough.” Her post asks, “Asi o mas claro” — is it clear enough what these protesters are asking for?

Protesters weren’t afraid to paint graphic images on their bodies to show the pain that they’ve endured thanks to this administration.

Twitter / @melolops

This protester painted “Dios nos libera del dinero” (God save us from money) — representing the financial corruption that Rosselló’s administration has used to rule over the Puerto Rican people. On her back is a hand holding a machete, thrust up in revolution. It’s accompanied by the rainbow flag to represent the discrimination that the LGBTQ+ community currently faces in Puerto Rico.

A common theme among the face paint was that the fires of revolution have caught and are now burning.

Twitter / @dversadi
This gorgeous revolutionary art shows its artist @dversadi engulfed in flames from the neck up. The fire licks up her cheeks to the dual Puerto Rican flags made up by her elaborate eye makeup. The look is made even more empowering when viewed under UV lights. She looks like a living embodiment of the revolution that the island is experiencing.

Support for the PR protesters has reached far and wide. This one, for example, comes from an artist in Connecticut.

Twitter / @moralesgian291

Makeup artist, Gian Morales, showed his support with this breathtaking paint job. Making himself the Puerto Rican flag, Morales depicts himself with tape sealing his mouth — no doubt a nod to how voiceless the current administration has made its citizens. His gorgeous eye makeup should be appreciated for the work of art that it is as well.

Protesters have gone above and beyond to make sure their message is heard.

Twitter / @molinangelia

Anchor for CBS News, David Begnaud, pointed out just how incredible the PR protesters are and he wondered what other innovative ways citizens will show their support of the revolution. He tweeted:

“I have to say: Puerto Ricans are the most creative protesters I’ve ever covered. Under the water In the water Yoga. What’s next?”

He was answered by Twitter user @monlinangelia who shared a picture of herself skydiving with the phrase, “Ricky Renuncia” painted on her arm. We have to call this one of the most daring protests we’ve seen during this conflict.

We aren’t sure what will change in the near future to improve conditions in Puerto Rico but we know that the citizens of the island will hold their new government accountable. They have the support of their people and the Latinx community around the world. One thing is clear: we can’t deny that these incredible makeup looks have made their mark on the revolution.

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