As the news media fawns over Chris Christie’s self-promotion today, there’s an arguably more important story that won’t make the front pages. In fact, aside from this blogger, the only other media there was a video journalist from one of the Philadelphia television stations.
It’s an established fact that quality care and education early in a child’s life can set the tone for that individual throughout his or her lifetime. So why is it that some of the people we entrust with our youngsters are compensated at effectively below minimum wage?
Today in Trenton, about one hundred child care providers, represented by CWA Local 1037, rallied in front of the Department of Human Services to make their case for adequate wages. These workers, mostly women, earn a median income of less than $25,000 according to a study by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work.
The child care providers are independent contractors, paid through DHS, but do not receive the benefits that state workers do as they care for children of similarly underpaid workers or full-time students. Even with subsidies, some say they will not be able to afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
According to Trina Scordo, Executive Director of New Jersey Communities United, there are about 2000 of these workers who provide child care, meals, and activities for pre-school children in the care providers’ home. These workers are not glorified baby-sitters. Far from it. According to the Rutgers study, their average experience in the field is 12½ years, and most have had at least 20 hours of approved education in the past three years. As one of the workers, Shanita Hargrove of Newark explains in the accompanying video, their services range from changing diapers to developing motor skills to emergency room visits when a child is ill.
Upon arrival in Trenton, the group visited some small businesses nearby (on the same street that Barbara Buono campaigned on last week), and then held a brief demonstration in front of the Department of Health. Following that, a small delegation entered the building to deliver a petition to Commissioner Jennifer Velez. Velez’s office refused to accept the petition.
Paul Karr, a spokesman for the union, told me that their plan is to regroup, come back bigger and stronger, and work toward a fair contract for the child care providers.