We Stand with Caregivers’ National Call to Action Today: “Care Is Essential”
JULY 13, 2021
BY: THE CENTER FOR EQUITY STAFF TEAM
Today, The Center for Equity is inspired to see home care workers across the country taking to the streets in a day of action calling on the White House and Congress to invest in the nation’s care economy as a matter of racial and gender justice. We’re watching as essential home care workers are participating in rallies, marches and other community events in at least 24 cities across the U.S. alongside care consumers and community allies to demand good union, living-wage jobs and a federal down payment to expand access to long-term care.
This historic moment has been a long time coming. Caregivers’ demands are striking in their call for basic human dignities: jobs, care and justice for the 2.3 million home care workers in the U.S., of whom 87% are women, 62% are people of color, and 1 in 4 are immigrants. The demographic makeup of the caregiving workforce is no coincidence: it is the result of a series of intentional policy choices over the course of our country’s history (and present) – such as the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act’s exclusion of domestic workers (who were predominantly Black women) from the protections of minimum wage and overtime pay afforded other (whiter, more male) professions – whereby racism was (and is) weaponized as a tool to suppress the economic and political power of Black and brown workers. The concentrations of Black and brown and immigrant women in undervalued occupations like home care aide and parallel racial disparities in wages and benefits, are rooted in the institution of chattel slavery and how the U.S. economy was built on the unpaid childcare and domestic labor of enslaved Black women. (See our framework paper, The Racial Equity and Job Quality Crisis in Long-Term Care, for more context.)
On this national day of action grounded in the activism of generations of caregivers, workers are expressly calling on Congress to pass President Biden’s care plan to invest $400 billion in the home care workforce, which would create a million new care jobs, lift up essential care workers, and address skyrocketing needs for care. Workers, caregiver unions like SEIU and national advocacy organizations like the National Domestic Workers Alliance assert that an investment in home- and community-based care of this scale would help meet the ballooning demand for care and establish a pipeline of home care workers into the next generation by transforming care jobs into good, living-wage, union jobs with training opportunities and real career pathways.
Unsurprisingly given the current political landscape, entrenched party-line opposition and centrist fretting about the impact of the investment on the federal deficit threaten the transformational promise of Biden’s care plan for millions of women of color. If lawmakers’ hesitancy to prioritize caregivers’ needs feels familiar, it’s because it is, to so many generations of Black and brown women and immigrants in the U.S. whose essential work and legacy has been repeatedly miscategorized as unskilled “women’s work,” in order to better exploit caregiving labor as less valuable and less deserving of investment than that of other whiter, more male professions.
It’s high time for our country to talk about the care crisis and the extreme workforce shortage of caregivers as a race and gender equity issue. Unequivocally. Because without confronting the links between systemic racism and sexism and the poor job quality that millions of caregivers experience each day as poverty and racialized trauma, the United States won’t solve the care crisis in the transformational way that older adults, people with disabilities and the workers who care for them so urgently need. It’s inspiring to see thousands of care workers marching in the streets today calling out for the justice they deserve, and The Center for Advancing Racial Equity and Job Quality in Long-Term Care (Center for Equity) is proud to be a national hub for echoing their calls in our workforce policy and narrative change work.
The opinions expressed herein are attributable to The Center for Equity and may not reflect the views of individual members of the Center’s Advisory Board and/or their respective organizations.