Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work

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.

NCPC Report

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.


I love knowing you're working on behalf of kids

I was a single parent for eight years before I remarried. I toted my son to grad school (they hated that), work (they hated that) and missed a lot of meetings because I was hopping between pediatricians, day care centers, etc.

Thanks for posting this.

The amount of work that single parents miss because of their

kids is phenomenal. Forward thinking employers build flexibility into work schedules, and even give kid hours that can be taken just for that purpose. The employers who don't give that flexibility, in my experience, are the larger ones that don't pay their employees well. (Imagine that!)

It's very sad, I've found children sleeping in cars in the Wal-mart parking lot here. When you find a situation like that, it's difficult to know what to do. State law says that you must report a dangerous situation involving children to the authorities. But I know that the employee who resorted to that had no choice - it was that or lose the job. I've taken down the license plate number, gone in and reported that the headlights were on, and then gone back to the car, to wait for the employee to talk about what was going on, and did they have anyone they could call to come and get the children for tonight. Fortunately, we were able to come up with someone, and she did, and the following morning, she and her three kids were in my office, and my parent referral specialist was on the phone working out a flexible child care arrangement for her, and setting her up with an appointment for child care subsidy. We were able to get a local church to sponsor her fees until she was off the waiting list and the subsidy kicked in.

I met with the HR manager at Wal-mart and told her about this situation, and others that had occurred in a similar fashion. The subsidy manager from DSS came with me, eager to work on ways that we could help one of the largest employers in our county. We were told:

If they can't handle their responsibilities working here, they can find another job.

The thing is, no, they can't. There is no other place that hires that many people with that level of education and training in our county. So. There you have it. Boss Wal-Mart. Bleh.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Wal-Mart-induced child neglect


You should contact Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect, with your account.

I'm assuming it's not already in the book, as I've only read the first 20-30 pages of it...but it definitely made my (long) list of things to read.

You can reach him at cnfish at-sign mindspring full-stop-a.k.a.-dot com.

That book should be going into paperback in the next few months, and publishers love having new prefaces/afterwords/whatever for paperback editions.

relocating from Indianapolis, IN to RTP, NC soon; got any advice for me?

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Garner, NC

I wouldn't recommend drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity for everyone, but they've always worked for me. -- Hunter S. Thompson


I'll look into it.

I'd rather have Wal-Mart consistently scheduling folks in such away that they could find and keep child care than to have a horrible incident like this in a book. My staff and I take turns sweeping the Wal-Mart parking lot at night, looking for kids bedded down in cars. It's just not safe by any stretch of the imagination.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors

Totally agree

with you. Excellent early childcare will benefit the entire state; schools, businesses, parents, children, all of us. It is time for us to join the rest of the western industrialized world on many levels and this is one of them.

Worrying about your kids while you're at work is a huge energy and time sink. It would also be nice if businesses would take that knowledge (because trust me, they know this) and use it to benefit their workers by subsidizing good childcare centers rather than using it to discriminate against single parents.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

You're right, Leslie

And the businesses who do recognize that childcare is important to their workers, and allow it as a benefit, either to take the dollars as pre-tax (that can be as much as 6000 a year or more, depending on where you live)have lower employee turnover. It costs a salary and a half to train a new worker, so it only makes sense to do everything you can to keep the people you have in place.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi
Pointing at Naked Emperors