Child care is an essential need for parents in the workforce: People can’t work if they don’t have the security that their families are being cared for. Due to generations of underinvestment in the care economy, many families faced difficulties accessing and affording child care even prior to the pandemic. Then, the COVID-19 crisis underscored just how threadbare our care infrastructure is.
The U.S. economy has relied on women, particularly women of color, to care for our children to keep our economy going. But despite how essential they are, child care workers earn some of the lowest wages, leaving these women struggling to make ends meet, reliant on public benefits to feed themselves and their families, and extremely vulnerable to economic shocks.
We need a care economy that works for both families and child care workers. To that end, the Women’s Bureau and The Worker Institute at Cornell ILR School recently held the second webinar in our Equity in Focus series, “Equity in Focus: Investing in Child care Careers.” To begin reimagining a child care system that meets the needs of families while treating child care workers with dignity, the webinar explored the challenges of the child-care industry and highlighted local examples that are improving access to child care while also increasing wages and compensation for child care workers.
Care That Works, a coalition of grassroots community groups and labor unions in Massachusetts, launched a nonstandard-hour child care pilot program in Boston that matches working parents pursuing careers in construction and hospitality with child care providers who open as early as 5 a.m. Care That Works Senior Strategist Lindsay McCluskey noted the pilot program is centered around economic, racial, and gender equity principles and has been developed and led by those most impacted by the current child care crisis. While one of the main goals of the program is to support low-income single mothers who are pursuing or employed in good-paying union jobs, the pilot also provides child caregivers with a monthly stipend. The funding for this vital support service comes from project labor agreements for major construction projects in the Boston area.