On May 9, child care providers and parents across the country are standing in solidarity to take action on our childcare crisis in A Day Without Child Care. They are demanding federal investments for affordable child care and a living wage for providers, spending of state ARP funds to improve affordability, access, and compensation for child care, and additional local investments.
Janna Rodriguez, an early childhood educator and organizer with Childcare Changemakers from New York, talked to ChangeWire about why she’s taking on the risks that come with striking to reap the rewards of long term changes to our childcare infrastructure.
You and other organizers with Childcare Changemakers have been fighting for some of these changes for a long time – decades even – why did you decide that a strike was the next step?
We have advocated every day with our elected officials, our unions, other organizations. We’ve held town halls, sent letters to Congress in support of legislation, and spoke in front of Congress on the importance of child care. And we are still not being taken seriously. We hear all this talk about child care, but the funds just do not equate to the support families and providers need to keep our doors open and sustain the economy.
If after the world was plagued with a virus that took so many lives and created an indent in the way we live and see life, and it has not made us become aware of how disconnected we were to the problems of this country and we continue to do the same, then what are we doing? Being silent is being complicit. Continuing a broken system shows the world what kind of country we are – one that would leave behind the very same families that are part of the economy that keeps this country going.
Some childcare providers want to speak up, but are worried about losing a day of subsidy payments that allow them to keep their businesses running. Are you worried about that?
All of the families I care for pay with subsidies. If I was so worried about losing them, when I have fostered such a transparent and healthy relationship with all my families, I would be undervaluing myself and my work.
The families I serve completely understand my financial struggles as I understand theirs. They support me and are standing in solidarity with me and other providers across the nation because they understand that we are in this together. We are advocating for both equal pay and more affordable care for families. Our obstacles coincide.
I have already lost so much over the years being a childcare provider under the conditions of our broken system. Self care and my mental health have always come second as I always prioritized the children and families I cared for. Then, the pandemic hit and I knew I had to be even stronger than I was before. It is now almost three years into the pandemic. I worked alone for more than six months in the beginning and still have not been able to take a day off or a vacation in three years. I made sure my staff was paid and provided with time off first.
What would you say to fellow childcare workers who might be on the fence about striking when they’re handling so much right now?
Understand that when you are undervalued, overworked and unheard, what other options do you have? These are very important questions to ask yourself. We teach these amazing little people everyday to love, respect and honor themselves, yet we don’t honor ourselves. We have been overlooked for decades and when we look at the disparities, it isn’t just a wealth and inequality disparity. It is a gender inequity, a racial inequity and an inequity to children from low-income communities – especially black and brown children.
What are the repercussions if workers and parents don’t stand up in solidarity?
We will continue to be walked on and disrespected as if what we do is not important. We are educators providing a foundation for the next generation and we deserve to be honored as such. If we do not stand in solidarity together, then we are not only failing ourselves and the families and children we serve, we are being complicit to the predatory and unjust system that continues to plague our country. We would be taking away opportunities from providers, parents, and others who are vital to our economy and are working to make progress for everyone. We would continue to widen the wealth gap based on creed, race and access. Together, our power is stronger than the billionaire greed trying to hold us back.
Why should people who don’t have children or are not in the childcare sector care about this issue?
This is not a selfish fight. This is a fight towards a healthier world – a brighter future for all children to be able to know that the generations to come after us will do better than we did. Knowing we have supported and fought for justice for everyone is a purpose we should all follow. This is not about being a parent solely, it is about being a human being who cares, loves and understands that this affects each of us.