May 10, 2022
Hidden next to the obituaries in the sports section of our local newspaper was an article on the strike by childcare workers in the US. Hundreds of day care centers across America were closed Monday as workers in 27 states and the District of Columbia went on strike for better wages. The workers called Monday, “A Day Without Childcare”. The intent was to draw attention to an industry where these essential workers are not paid enough to cover their own essentials. As many as 400 providers were on strike Monday, significantly disrupting childcare operations. Despite the inconvenience, many parents support the fight for higher wages for care providers.
When I looked online, I found the lack of accessibility to childcare in the US places a burden on the economy and labor force. The closures and mandates brought on by the pandemic cause increased hardship to find quality childcare. Childcare statistics for the US indicate 58% of working parents (6.38 million parents), rely on childcare centers, and 57% of working families spent more than $10,000 on childcare in 2020. That is an average of at least 10% of household income. Center for American Progress reports in the US it costs $300 per week to send a child to a family care center, $340 per week to send a child to a childcare or daycare center, and $612 per week for a nanny. Roughly half of Americans have trouble finding childcare, and 27% of those say it is because there are not enough open childcare slots. While two-thirds of parents in the US have few childcare options, 51% live in communities classified as childcare deserts.
Organizers of the childcare rallies are demanding better wages and subsidies industry wide. Meanwhile, few of the providers make a profit and many are in the red. The demand for childcare is far greater than the supply and workers often earn poverty level wages with few benefits. The median wage is $13.22 an hour and most childcare providers are women, with a disproportionate number being women of color. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognized the importance of childcare at the onset of the pandemic, but that realization has diminished with the failure of the administration’s Build Back Better plan. BBB proposed federal investments in childcare and pre-K to set a cap on the amount families pay for services and establish minimum salary requirements for workers. Now, that does not seem essential.
THOUGHTS: As childcare workers demand higher wages the industry is dealing with a staff shortage, as many workers can find higher pay elsewhere. “We’re competing with McDonald’s, a half-mile up the street,” said Meredith Burton, director of a childcare center. Parents are squeezed as the cost of one child in childcare takes the first US$7.50 per hour out of your take home check. The critical time for childhood education is preschool through 8 years old, and children lag their peers without support. We need to find ways to pay workers and support the parents. These children are our legacy. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.