Aren’t child care worker’s women too?

Aren’t child care worker’s women too?

Being a woman in the United States means being treated worse for less pay and harder work. While many women experience the daily inequities of sexism,  the working class woman is expected to do it with a smile and put her issues on the back burner.

“We need childcare, we’re exhausted,” say women!

But what about the women who work in childcare? Are they not women too?

Apparently not. In this pandemic, the women who are employed in childcare have continuously been offered up as tools to make it “easier” for the other economically oppressed women who pour coffee, clean their homes, and paint toenails.   These representations are made by organizations that frame themselves as feminists.  Instead of seeking to protect all women during this pandemic, some are being pushed into potential exposure in the name of convenience.  To rework the Dead Kennedys: “Give me convenience (by) Giv(ing) (someone else) death!”

Childcare workers are even being used as solutions for middle and upper middle class parents who  want to put their child (up to 12) somewhere, while they go to work or a socially distanced event.  Many of these parents are anti-vaxxers with a complete disregard for science and disdainful of using a mask properly or even using one.  For them, costs and ignorance are merely expenses to be paid with a swipe of a card or an iphone.  Understanding why the US  for the most part is doing K-12 school remotely will be casually ignored if you think you are wealthy enough. 

The women who are currently doing childcare have been forced to work through the entire pandemic. They work in a system where half the field makes less than $9.00 an hour and only 15% receive benefits. Those benefits are typically expensive and inaccessible for a field whose median pays hovers around the $11.00 an hour mark. In many states, it would be illegal for them to organize for a labor contract. I say her, because over 95% of this field is women, and in urban centers, they are often Black and Latinx women.

Every worker should be treated with respect, but these women receive  none.  Well, maybe there are a couple of yard-sign-fig-leaf that state “We support our essential workers.”

The history of childcare goes back to the end of chattel slavery in the United States. 

Childcare was set up for the recently freed & formerly enslaved and the newly arrived immigrants. The point of this system was to warehouse the children of the poor, so that their mothers could cook, clean, and watch the children of the rich for low wages. Concern for the women who worked in the field of childcare and the children they watched was scant. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, childcare reopened up beyond just first responders, so that the parents of other unjustly paid essential workers could serve coffee, bag groceries,  serve food for the comfort of the rich and the middle class and to be used as human guinea pigs.

The freefall- of- the- middle- class now requires two adults working full time.   The stagnant middle class wages has priced out many middle class families from preschool into the warehousing option called childcare.  Meanwhile, while the price of this lower cost option has skyrocketed, the station of the women doing the work of childcare remains the same. 

The status of childcare workers as being “disposables” remains despite the fact that early childhood education has been professionalized, has standards instituted by NAEYC and states, and requires  post-secondary education .

Childcare being open during COVID-19 is racist, sexist, and classist.

H.R.7327 – Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, the act touted by currently safely sheltering in place, telecommuting, early-childhoodeducation-leadership, included nothing directly for workers but red meat for the companies.

When I asked the Center for American Progress, Early Education division on Twitter, what did this act or the complementary H.R.7027 Child Care Is Essential Act have for workers, they responded:

“If providers are given the proper federal funding to #SaveChildCare they should have the funds to obtain PPE, sanitation supplies…”

I thought the “cleaning supplies” answer was facetious or cruel, a modern “If they can’t afford bread, let them eat cake.”   But a thorough reading of both acts showed that there was indeed relatively little funding directly for childcare workers, but the Act did have a provision for clearing supplies and PPE.

H.R. 7327 Child Care for Economic Recovery Act has lots of tax credits for business and H.R.7027 – Child Care Is Essential Act says you can spend on salary OR cleaning equipment OR PPE or the employer’s mortgage or utilities. 

What do you think an industry that has no problem risking their workers’ lives and paying them barely over minimum wage is going to do when the provision provided in H.R. 7027 gives them a choice to spend the cash on themselves or the workers?  Marie Antoinett’s “Let them eat cake” will become “The owners will eat it all.”

Leading organizations in the field of early childhood education, such as NAEYC, who have helped in leading the charge with the deceptive narrative of #ChildcareIsEssential and #SaveChildCare in order to keep child care open to support business and to throw workers under the bus, should be open and honest with their pro-business and anti-worker stances.

Childcare workers deserve to  know that they are on their own in regards to advocacy. 

Sara Mauskopf is the CEO and co-founder of Winnie an Internet start-up with dreams of being the Airbnb of childcare wrote an entire advertorial dressed up as an editorial in Working Mother. In this advertorial, she suggested the desperate women in child care  will work for little to take care of your little ones (and big ones) for a reasonable cost during a pandemic.

She writes, “It’s a common misconception that daycare is just for babies and toddlers. Most states automatically license in-home providers to care for children up to age 12.”

Just for references the many, many, many tax breaks in H.R. 7327 Child Care for Economic Recovery Act doesn’t apply to most in-home providers.

It is outrageous that Early-childhood leadership is offering up childcare workers as an option to K-12, which has been converted to being virtual owing to potential for spreading the disease.  This is merely moving the deck chairs to another sinking ship.  It goes against science, logic, and weakens all workers’ demands for stipends and rent halts while we’re awaiting a second wave of a virus that has already killed over 160,000 people.

Not only did early childhood leadership not ask for anything substantial for workers, but it’s steadily adding more work to the plate of some of the lowest-paid and least-respected workers in the legal labor field. 

On the heels of an antiracism and equity wave, the opportunity to put theory into practice was completely abandoned in childcare in favor of dancing to the death-cult beat of the rightwing. 

Early childhood education leaders had the math and science from other countries. It had information from peer-reviewed journals. JAMA Pediatrics published a study on July 30, stating that children under 5-years-old are potentially superspreaders. We know that children over 5 spread it as effectively as adults, so sending 12-year-olds to childcare centers is a disaster waiting to happen. 

There should be no COVID-19 economy. People should be home safe with their families. It is a dishonest narrative to imply that the only way childcare can survive is for the women who work in the field to lie down, so everyone else can use their backs to stay out of the muddy mess created by our incompetent president. 

What have other countries done? They closed and gave people stipends. The US is the outlier and the bad example. 

It is the height of irresponsibility that middle-class women and men working from home decided that instead of requesting stipends and rent support for workers to advocate instead that childcare workers be sacrificial workers for the good of the economy.

Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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