Care workers—including providers of both child care and hands-on direct care supporting the elderly and people with disabilities—number 5.5 million and are employed in some of the fastest growing and lowest paying jobs in the American economy. Their "priceless" work, of such critical importance to families and society, rarely offers more than miserable wages and shoddy benefits. Improving these jobs and securing a decent standard of care requires fundamentally and dramatically reshaping the nation's understanding of what care work is, what it is worth, and how to pay for it.
Raising job quality and the standard of care requires a substantial infusion of public money and a simple and direct means of delivering that investment directly to care workers. To get there, we will need to connect to and build upon the important work already being done by coalitions on care work throughout the nation. Child care and health care workers, as well as their advocates and unions, need to be increasingly connected to city and state minimum wage campaigns to ensure that care workers are covered by increases, and to begin securing public and private resources needed to make higher wages for care workers a reality. These connections can provide a foundation to build stronger and more comprehensive community care work infrastructure that can identify, organize, and rationalize the work; develop systems to provide health insurance or other benefits directly to care workers; and build the case, constituency, and infrastructure for the transformation of these jobs.
Author: Laura Dresser