|If ever a time to honor Labor Day…
Labor Day honors the American workforce and the contributions that workers make to our communities and families. After the past year, many people deserve extra recognition for their extraordinary fortitude as workers in and outside the home.
As the pandemic raged, women and men cared for parents and family members stricken by the virus and kept their remote-learning kids focused and healthy. And working parents did all this while juggling the escalating and competing demands of work and home.
At home, they were teachers, survivalists, IT professionals, mentors, therapists, artists, caregivers, scientists, friends, debaters, debunkers, worriers, researchers, activists, and motivators. They managed their households like the “domestic engineers” they are.
At work, mothers especially were on the front lines of the pandemic. Many of these workers – doctors, nurses, EMTs, health aides, janitors, supermarket cashiers – were women who didn’t have the benefit of working from home. They went to their jobs despite the threat to their family, keeping people and the economy alive.
Child care employees were among these exceptional workers. Child care providers – predominately Black and Hispanic women – risked their health so frontline workers could do their jobs. Despite the sector’s characteristic low wages, these early educators went to work, navigated PPE and social distancing, and taught the ABCs while calming confusion and anxiety.
But not all child care facilities could afford to stay open, and women were especially hard hit with job loss. Women left the workforce at a much higher rate than men. The worst hit? Working moms, women in senior management, Black women, and women with kids under 10. Although the unemployment rate of women with school-age children was down to 5.4% in August, women may not be returning to the same level of salary or seniority. And who knows the future impact of the Delta variant.
Even now with the economy opening up, child care facilities are still struggling. Children First learned that several facilities in the region have recently limited their hours or shut down entirely because they can’t hire enough staff. Without shoring up the sector, our economy will continue to struggle.
So this Labor Day, remember the workers in your life; the unpaid or underpaid labor who keep the wheels of industry turning at home and in the workforce. While you’re enjoying that backyard BBQ or last days at the shore, give them a helping hand. They sure can use it.