April 24 is designated as Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
Designed to be more than a career day, the Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® program goes beyond the average “shadow” an adult. Exposing girls and boys to what a parent or mentor in their lives do during the work day is important, but showing them the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success. Each year, development of new interactive activities and partnerships will assist us in taking girls and boys to the future they dream of.
If handled properly, this can be a rewarding experience for parents and children, and I highly encourage you to participate if you can.
But that's not really the point of this diary. What if you had to take your daughter and son to work, because your child care provider went on strike?
We've been talking about collective bargaining a bit over the past few weeks, for state employees. Most child care providers are not state employees. Most child care providers don't have the payscale, or the health insurance, or the retirement benefits, or the paid time off that state employees do. Most of them work for small businesses, or in fact run their own small businesses. These small businesses have a huge impact on every other business in the state. According to The North Carolina Partnership for Children and Families (Smart Start) Report on the Economic Impact of Child Care, published in 2004, the child care industry directly supports more than 46,000 jobs; on a par with elementary school teachers and all building construction in the state. Yet according to a Workforce Study done in 2003 by Child Care Services association, the average wage for child care providers in NC was $8.00 per hour. I'll do the math for you there - that works out to $16,640 a year, well below what an elementary school teacher earns.
5 years later, there hasn't been much change. The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2006 the mean hourly wage for child care providers nationwide was 9.05. Still nowhere close to a living wage.
According to the NC Justice Center, the 2008 living income standard (the amount that has to come into the home for a single parent with two children, for example)is $18.03.
You can see that child care providers have good reason to organize, to strike for better wages. What effect would that have?
According to the Smart Start report referenced above,
Unscheduled absences cost small businesses an average of $60,000 annually and large companies an average of $3.6 million. Nearly one-quarter of unscheduled absences are due to family issues, including child care needs.
So if child care went on strike, imagine the losses that would occur in just one day, or one week without child care.
The report also states that
the child care industry generates $1.5 billion annually in gross receipts, more than the scientific research and development and wireless telecommunications industries.
North Carolina received a total of $493 million in federal funds in child care for State Fiscal Year 2003. Nevertheless, parents pay most of the costs of child care.
It is impossible to raise salaries and benefits given the current funding scenario for child care. Parents bear almost the full brunt of funding private child care; and parents cannot afford to pay the full cost of raising teacher's wages to a living wage.
The time has come for our government to realize that early education is as important as elementary education, and that child care supports a healthy economy.
- One in ten workers has a child under age six.
- Projections indicate a growth in demand for high-skilled professional employees. To fill these jobs, current labor force participants, including dislocated workers, must be able to retrain and update their skills
- Parents wanting to enter community college cite the lack of affordable, accessible quality child care as one of their largest barriers to entry.
- Parents in low-wage occupations need child care supports to ensure that they can continue working. Average child care costs for an infant and a three-year-old are more than half the state median income for single-mother households.
- Employee turnover is estimated to cost 1.5 times an employee’s salary. At Bank of America in Charlotte, employees receiving child care benefits were half as likely to leave their jobs.
- Quality, accessible child care enhances recruitment of young professional families.
- In 2001, one-fifth of North Carolina companies with more than 500 employees reported offering child care benefits to employees.
There are several reasons child care providers don't go on strike. The first, and most important, is that most of them went into the business of caring for children because they love children, and would do nothing to hurt them. The second is that they have no guarantees, no infrastructure to rely on to ensure that they could rely on if they did organize. Groups like NC-AEYC and NC Child Care Association are policy advocacy groups, and to my knowledge would never support a work stoppage.
But maybe if enough people think about the effect a child care strike would have, the state and federal government would be willing to underwrite salary increases, health insurance, or operating expenses. That could lead to higher quality child care for everyone - and that would be good for business, and especially for our children.