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Southern California Hotel Workers and Child Care Workers Deserve Fair Treatment

July 24, 2023

This blog highlights the commonalities between the California hotel workers currently striking for higher pay and better benefits, and child care workers who face similar burdens and inequities exacerbated by the pandemic.

The current hotel workers’ strike in southern California was simultaneously a shock and predictable.

After we at BUILD worked to create a convening with 150 sessions; and many hundreds of presenters from almost every state, and we eagerly anticipated the chance to finally gather in person again to exchange ideas and co-create strategies, news of the possible hotel workers strike was a thunderbolt to our plans and hopes for the meeting. It was also no surprise at all.

Most of the hotel workers who remain without a contract are women of color and immigrant women who work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Or they are like Leticia Ortega de Ceballos, who sleeps in her car four days a week, close to the hotels in which she works, so she can pay for a house more than 100 miles away. The hotel workers went on strike demanding higher pay and better benefits “in a region where high housing costs make it difficult for low-wage earners to live close to where they hold jobs.” We support their demands.

The issues of inadequate pay, lack of benefits, and affordable housing[1] are all too familiar to another group of undervalued essential employees: child care workers, who are 94 percent female and 40 percent people of color, and “are paid worse than 98% of professions.” Within that 40 percent are “Black child care providers who earn an average of 78 cents less per hour than their white counterparts, even when controlling for education level.” Our nation has experienced a housing crisis decades in the making that disproportionately impacts young children and families, particularly children and families of color and those residing in poverty, inequities only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Federal pandemic relief dollars made it possible for states, counties, and cities to provide a variety of supports. Sometimes the funds were allocated to provide vouchers to families to access care. Some of the dollars were provided directly to programs to increase the number of children who could be served or to purchase supplies. The funding directed to the child care workforce was often provided as bonuses or other kinds of wage supplements. Sometimes it was targeted to assist educators in accessing higher education. All this funding was needed, but much of it did not alter the broken system. When the supplies were depleted or the bonuses were spent, the problem remained unchanged. These short-term solutions were needed, laudable, and appreciated, but we must work toward solutions that address the deep problems and broken systems. As Brandy Jones Lawrence, senior analyst at Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, noted: “If you look at the way we’ve set up child care as a nation, we have set it up as a social welfare program, not as a public good. It’s a broken business model basically balanced on the backs of the workers.”

For child care workers to receive the pay, benefits, and housing they deserve, systemic changes must be made. California has recently won a change to the system, thanks to Child Care Providers United, a union that represents 40,000 home child care providers across the state. These child care providers are set to receive the largest pay increase in state history.” More states need to follow suit.

The decision to change the structure and timing of our meeting was, for many reasons, a painful one, but it has been so heartening to support the hotel workers and to stand with a union that is asking hotels to approve to a seven percent fee on all guest room sales to help hospitality workers attain affordable housing and that is advocating for new hotel development to be linked to affordable housing construction. We will continue to support the hotel workers’ demands and offer these ideas for ways you can do the same. We also will continue to support the needs of child care workers through efforts such as the National Early Care and Education Workforce Center, which is designed to examine and address the need for fundamental changes to career advancement systems, compensation, and ECE workplace policies. Fair treatment for southern California hotel workers and the child care workers of this country is not negotiable. We all need to play a role in giving them what they deserve.

[1] For more information on the impact of the housing crisis on young children and families, watch the BUILD 2022 National Conference session, Housing is Our Lane: The Role that Early Childhood Sector Should Play to Improve Access to Quality, Affordable Housing

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