‘No room for growth now’

Los Angeles Times - - MONDAY BUSINESS -

Child-care as­sis­tant Eu­nice Me­d­ina, 23, was thrilled when Oak­land’s $12.25 min­i­mum wage took ef­fect in March. But al­most as quickly, Me­d­ina’s work­days were cut and her hours shaved from eight to six.

Her em­ployer, Asiya Jab­baar, says she had no choice. De­spite slic­ing hours and lay­ing off one of three as­sis­tants, Jab­baar says she still may need to close her busi­ness next year and con­vert it to a part­time af­ter-school pro­gram.

It’s a big let­down for the 38-yearold Jab­baar, who launched Reach­ing Be­yond Care in 2010.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence il­lus­trates what can hap­pen to small em­ploy­ers when min­i­mum wages jump sud­denly. The ef­fect on li­censed or gov­ern­men­treg­u­lated en­ti­ties, such as Jab­baar’s, can be par­tic­u­larly sharp.

Be­cause state law re­quires at least a 6-to-1 child-teacher staffing ra­tio for small home-based child­care providers, it’s dif­fi­cult to re­spond to higher wage costs by sim­ply trim­ming hours or staff. And Jab­baar vol­un­tar­ily ad­heres to an even stricter ra­tio of 3 to 1.

So while Oak­land’s new higher min­i­mum wage may lure some stayat-home par­ents back into the la­bor force, the irony is that they may face higher prices and fewer op­tions when search­ing for child care.

Jab­baar wor­ries most about main­tain­ing high-qual­ity staff if she’s un­able to of­fer steady pay raises. Be­fore the wage hike, she started work­ers at $9, and ev­ery year bumped up their pay by a dollar or so, hop­ing to keep them sat­is­fied and at their jobs un­til the next raise came around.

“There’s no room for growth now,” Jab­baar said on a re­cent morn­ing as she cared for three 2½-yearolds. “It wouldn’t be fair to keep [work­ers] at $12.25. They’re at that cap.”

Don Lee Los An­ge­les Times

Asiya Jab­baar

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