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AFSCME members participate in multi-day ‘Care Can’t Wait’ events

Photo: Miriam Harris/AFSCME
AFSCME members participate in multi-day ‘Care Can’t Wait’ events
By Pete Levine ·
AFSCME members participate in multi-day ‘Care Can’t Wait’ events
UDW member Sabrina Bishop. Photo: Miriam Harris/AFSCME

AFSCME care workers from across the country gathered in Washington this week to celebrate Care Workers Recognition Month and participate in several days of events to mobilize around and lobby for their profession.

On Tuesday, at a rally at Washington’s Union Station organized by the AFSCME-backed advocacy organization Care Can’t Wait Action, President Joe Biden emphatically voiced support for care workers and the services they provide.

“Care workers represent the best of who we are as Americans,” said Biden. “You’re the heroes to so many individuals. You represent so many people who do it out of love and concern. Not because of the pay, because you’re not getting the pay you need.”

Biden added, “I give you my word — I have your back! Care workers and care givers are critical to our families and the entire economy. That’s why as a candidate and as president, I was determined to turn things around. We’ve made progress, but there’s so much more to do. If we want the best economy in the world, we need the best care-giving economy in the world. The cost of care is too high and pay for care workers is much too low.”

Biden also acknowledged that the deck is stacked against many care workers.

“More often than not, from child care to elder care to lack of paid leave, it’s women who bear the brunt. Care workers are predominantly women of color and immigrants, who are overworked, overlooked and underpaid. It’s not enough to praise them for what they do; we have to pay them,” he said.

Biden has backed his words up with action. The American Rescue Plan that he signed into law invested $60 billion in the care economy, keeping hundreds of thousands of providers’ doors open during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. That law was also the biggest investment in child care ever. And thanks to the White House’s tax credit expansions, nearly 300,000 child care workers are receiving financial relief.

It has been one year since the historic signing of the White House Executive Order on Care, the most comprehensive administrative step to strengthen child care, paid leave and aging and disability care in the history of the nation, including good jobs for care workers.

At the Union Station rally, AFSCME President Lee Saunders echoed the urgent need to support care workers.

“Care providers do the vital work that holds our communities together,” Saunders said. “You allow people to age with dignity in their own homes. You help people with disabilities lead independent lives. You provide a safe environment for children to learn and grow while their parents are at work.”

Saunders acknowledged that for too long, care workers have lived on the margins, even as the demands for their services have risen.

“But all that is changing,” Saunders said. “Care workers have been organizing, and it’s paying off. You are standing up and saying you deserve the rights and freedoms of a strong union — a voice on the job and a seat at the table. It’s about time you were treated like the front-line heroes and heroines that you are.”

Also speaking at the rally was Sabrina Bishop, a United Domestic Workers (AFSCME Local 3930) care worker from San Diego. She became a care worker after her mother fell and continues to provide care for members of her community, driven by a passion for the work. She has been an activist in her union to fight for providers like her.

 “I love this work and fighting for the people I care for and my members,” said Bishop, who is one of an estimated 53 million people who care for family members. “So, no matter what, I’m going to continue to lace up my boots, put on my green shirts, and fight for dignity, respect and a real livable wage for long-term care workers.”

The Tuesday rally was part of several days of action that included lobbying visits on Capitol Hill. Whether they are child care providers, home care providers, or others with jobs in the care economy, they called on lawmakers to support their profession and increase federal investments in the work they do.

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