A quality child care system is within our grasp

My trip to the DNC in Philadelphia shows how far we’ve come on child care and inspires me to do even more

By: Tonia McMillian, Bellflower Child Care Provider, SEIU Local 99 Treasurer, & Raising California Together Co-Chair

By: Tonia McMillian, Bellflower Child Care Provider, SEIU Local 99 Treasurer, & Raising California Together Co-Chair

I just returned from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. It was an amazing experience…a once in a lifetime experience…and an empowering experience. I never envisioned that a home-based child care provider would reach a place where people outside of our small circle of supporters would be paying such close attention to the issues that we have faced for many, many years. It proves to me that our voice matters. I encourage workers from every industry to never, ever stop speaking up for fairness!

I’ve been a family child care provider for 22 years. My front row seat on the struggles of working moms and dads is one of the reasons I got involved in the Fight for $15 movement. Too many families are struggling. I know young single moms working more than 40 hours a week who can barely keep food on the table. When infant care costs more than college tuition, there’s something terribly wrong.

Leading up to ELECTION DAY…we will be fighting to elect leaders who understand that we must invest in quality, affordable child care. No family should pay more than 10% of their income on child care. No child care worker should earn less than $15/hr.

As a leader in child care providers’ efforts to have a voice in our industry, I also know how hard it is for child care workers to put food on the table and keep their doors open. Nearly a third of us were forced to shut down our day care businesses during the recession.

But my trip to Philadelphia has given me so much hope.

I can honestly say that we’ve never been so close to child care reform as we are today. Child care is a major issue in Hillary Clinton’s campaign and she has an ambitious plan to find a solution. Even Ivanka Trump is talking about child care. Think about that for a second. Child care has certainly reached the big time.

It’s been such an exciting year for our campaign and for me personally. From actions in Sacramento to a summit at the White House, child care workers have made their voices heard all over the country. Now with the election shifting into high gear, I’ve begun thinking about how we can activate child care workers and hold our political leaders accountable on this important issue.

I was invited to join a panel at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) called “Whose Issues Are They? The Politics of Work, Childcare and Family in an Election Year.”  It was such an honor to go to Philadelphia to represent SEIU Local 99, Raising California Together, and all the workers, parents, and kids.

The trip did not disappoint. I was able to talk about the importance of investing in child care with Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, former U.S. Labor Secretary and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, and representatives from such great organizations as Make it Work, American Women, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Everyone seems to agree that the time is now to make significant investment in a child care system that works for all of us.

The Fight for $15 has led to a significant shift in how people view our so called “women’s work.” Quality, affordable child care is an economic issue that affects us all. And this national realization wouldn’t have happened without the tireless efforts of women, moms, and allies who have raised our voices, organized and led.

And those efforts have already brought huge changes here at home in California. We’ve recently secured a landmark $527 million investment in early education that will reverse a decade of stagnant wages and finally put child care providers on the path to $15/hour. We have also developed new, innovative training programs that will help child care providers learn new skills.

Despite these successes, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to improve our child care system. The sad fact is that low wages are driving passionate people out of this profession and this needs to stop. There is such a disconnect between how much people value the actual work I provide — caring for children, ensuring their social and mental development, making sure they’re safe and well-fed — compared to the complete lack of respect for the profession. I feel like society looks down on the child care worker but at the same time society entrusts us with children’s development.

Now it’s time for me and other child care providers to take this issue to the ballot box and to the streets. “Strollers to the polls!”  Child care workers are a force this election season and we will join with other low-wage workers around the country.

Click here to watch Tonia speak to Convention Delegates in Philadelphia. (Tonia’s panel is about 25 minutes into this video.)

Click here to learn more about Hillary’s child care plan—look how we elevated child care as a HUGE issue in the November 2016 election!

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