It’s been a powerful last couple of weeks for the childcare movement. President Biden announced April Care Workers Recognition Month, signed the most comprehensive set of executive actions to support quality jobs for care workers and affordable care for families, and hundreds came into D.C. for the Care Workers Can’t Wait Summit.
“For far too long care providers have been forced to live on poverty wages. We need long-term investments to meet the needs of our children and create a more equitable and inclusive economy,” Community Change Chief of Programs Afua Atta-Mensah said. “I’m glad that President Biden declared April as Care Workers Recognition Month. It’s going to take a commitment from all of us to build the care infrastructure we need.”
Kicking off with screening Storming Caesar’s Palace
With momentum and excitement, Community Change Action and our partners convened in Washington, D.C. for the first-of-its-kind Care Workers Can’t Wait Summit, hosted by the National Domestic Workers Alliance along with SEIU, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, AFT, MomsRising, Care in Action, and Care Can’t Wait.
The Summit kicked off with a screening of the documentary Storming Caesar’s Palace — a film about the story of Ruby Duncan, a trailblazer in the fight for welfare rights who was thrust into the world of activism and is now considered “one of the most extraordinary, yet forgotten, Black feminist anti-poverty movements in U.S. history.”
Afterward, panelists held a conversation about the work of organizers in the welfare fight, and the ripple effects of deep community organizing when it centers the people at the heart of the injustice, and across race. The panel included Executive Director of Care in Action Hillary Holley, film subject and Duncan’s daughter Sondra Phillips-Gilbert, the film’s director and producer Hazel Gurland-Pooler, Early Childhood Health Organizer for Go Austin/Vamos Austin Michelle Mejia, and Affordable Childcare Organizer for Mothering Justice Toyja Bridges.
“My mother put her life on the line for everybody and people in this room have benefited from these women — If you ever had WIC, food stamps, if you could go into a welfare office now and they cannot terminate you without any reason.” said Phillips-Gilbert. “We have to make sure that their legacy is your legacy.”
As the summit continued, attendees were welcomed with a day full of plenaries and breakout sessions ranging from discussions on addressing the true crisis of our child care workforce to uniting care workers together in an effort to fight against the odds through union organizing. Ivydel Natachu, a childcare provider and organizer with OLÉ, a Community Change partner in New Mexico, spoke at the morning plenary about her firsthand experience in organizing and the power of unions. Thanks to leaders like Natachu and OLÉ, voters in New Mexico approved a constitutional amendment in the last Midterm election that guarantees funding for early childhood education.
Care workers react in real-time to Biden’s Executive Order on care
On day two of the Summit, we witnessed President Biden make history in announcing the largest comprehensive set of actions to support care workers, family caregivers and working families. This Executive Order aims to improve access to home-based care for veterans, boost job quality for early educators, make child care and long-term care more accessible for families, and so much more. Community Change Action Co-Presidents Lorella Praeli and Dorian Warren, Community Change Action Legislative & Advocacy Director Jaya Chatterjee, and several of our Childcare Changemakers, partners, and care providers – including Natachel, Johanna Villa, Tessie Ragan, and Evelan Fountain – attended the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.
Thanks to every care worker, family, and community organizer, the work to provide quality access to families and livable wages for care workers has been recognized at a national level and empowers us to continue the work ahead. As we heard the news of President Biden’s announcement, Community Change Action Childcare Changemakers and partners shared real-time reactions on the Executive Order and what it means for them.
“Getting to be at the White House and hearing the President tell us what I already know as an early educator: That this is important work; that we are the workforce behind the workforce; that we are such a backbone to this economy and that we are essential, meant a lot because I know it and other educators and other care providers know it. But to now hear it from the highest office is certainly validation in the step of the right direction that we’re going in,” said Villa, a childcare provider and organizer with ISAIAH in Minnesota.
“Now I’m sitting listening to the President sign a Care Worker’s Proclamation showing that we really do matter in this country,” said Tessie Ragan, a childcare worker from California. “It was an amazing experience that I never thought in a million years I would have as a family childcare educator.”
“Being here and having Biden sign the Care actions, it was amazing because it’s just shedding light on what we’ve been talking about for years and that is affordable wages, us having a seat at the table and then just equity in childcare,” said Evelan Fountain, an early childhood educator with Family Circle Academy in Philadelphia.
Changemakers lead workshops ahead of ‘Day Without Child Care’
As the summit continued, Community Change Changemakers showed up big as they led sessions and panels. Shineal Hunter, a fourth-generation child care business owner from Pennsylvania shared her experience and insights on addressing the true crisis within the childcare workforce.
Then Changemakers including Hunter, Ragan, Eliana Campos, owner and director of Tenderloving Preschool in Concord, California, Kelly Dawn Jones, who founded L.O.V.E Your Child’s Care in Indianapolis, and Lydia Boerboom, an organizer with ISAIAH in Minnesota, took to the stage to get the crowd excited and ready for Community Change Action’s upcoming Day Without Child Care national day of action on May 8th.
The summit wrapped with organizers better prepared with strategy, tips and practical tools to take back to their community. Partnerships were strengthened as we continue to collaborate and galvanize our communities at the local and federal level. This inaugural summit was a reminder that, together, we are unstoppable as we build power from the ground up.