Child Care Center ends services at USC

first_imgUSC’s child care services provider, Children’s Creative Learning Center, ended its relationship with the University this summer, leaving families at both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses at risk of not having a nearby child care provider.CCLC Vice President Sharon Lytwynec announced the move in an email to parents, citing divisions between families and the center.“I’ve learned that a partnership with all families — even when there are disagreements — is critical to the success of any center,” Lytwynec wrote. “Without parents’ trust, we simply cannot provide the type of education, care or healthy environment that children deserve.”The decision came fewer than three weeks after CCLC employees at the UPC location voted to unionize under the Service  Employees International Union Local 99 group, which represents education workers throughout Southern California. They became the first group of workers under CCLC’s parent company, Kindercare, to unionize.In a letter to parents, Provost Michael Quick and Senior Vice President for Administration Todd Dickey explained the reasons behind CCLC’s decision.“CCLC tells us that their decision was due in large part to recent adversarial interactions with some parents at the University Park location that have eroded CCLC’s ability to meet their commitments to USC,” Quick and Dickey wrote. “They feel that there have been unreasonable demands put forward by parents, as well as intimidating behavior directed toward CCLC staff.”The announcements by USC and CCLC did not elaborate on the specific behavior that prompted the closure of the child care centers. Neither USC nor CCLC responded to requests for comment. However, many parents and teachers feel that the closure was intended to punish unionized workers.“Parents are angry,” Terry Carter, a spokesperson for SEIU Local 99, wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “They feel that their children are being used as pawns by the company to get back at teachers and even parents for speaking up about critical health, safety and staffing issues.”Teachers decided to unionize in response to poor working conditions such as low teacher-to-student ratios, unfair treatment and safety hazards, according to Gina Sandoval, a teacher at the center. At the child care center, which provides for children as young as six weeks old, parents found maggots in a trash can and earlier this month, the center was broken into because it had no security system.When teachers informed CCLC’s parent company Kindercare of their decision to unionize, administrators initially seemed responsive to teachers’ concerns. However, they remained resistant to the proposed union and hired “union-avoidance” firm Cruz and Associates to persuade teachers not to unionize, according to Carter.Despite those efforts, teachers successfully voted to unionize in late May with the support of many parents, who shared teachers’ concerns about the state of the center, and had previously sent a letter of no confidence to CCLC administrators.“It’s really important to me because of how wonderful the teachers are at USC daycare, how hard they have worked across the board, that their rights as workers and their rights to unionize should be respected and upheld by employers and people who have contracts that pertain to those workers,” said Joshua Goldstein, a UPC parent.Sandoval, who led the unionization effort, believes that Kindercare made an example out of the center to avoid similar union efforts at its other child care centers. She recalled a teacher from another district who had said in a union meeting that other Kindercare centers were facing similar struggles, which made her think the UPC unionization could be the start of a national movement.“If I was working in another Kindercare center and I heard about this center being unionized, and there were bad things happening in my center, I would gather up my teachers and say, ‘If they can do it, we can do it too,’” Sandoval said. “It’s pretty scary for Kindercare to hear that.”The UPC and HSC child care centers are currently still open, as Kindercare has not yet announced when it will officially cease its operations at USC. In the interim, families are left unsure of whether they will need to seek outside child care services, and the center’s 31 teachers do not know yet if they will need to look for new jobs.“Employees are also feeling very discouraged,” Carter wrote. “They risked standing up to the boss to bring urgently necessary improvements for the kids and families. They have said repeatedly that their struggle to form a union was never about making more money. It was about having a voice.”USC has begun the process of searching for a new child care provider to minimize the repercussions for families. Teachers and parents remain optimistic that the new operator will allow teachers to continue working at the center, and that the change will present new possibilities for USC.“I would love to see USC take a big stand — use the awesome research it has at its fingertips to create a model early childhood education center that removes financial barriers to early childhood education and allows all of our children an awesome learning environment,” UPC parent Johanna Maska wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “USC has an opportunity here — and I’d love to see them take it.”last_img