Viewpoint

Election’s over, but working class still seeks living wage

North Carolina child care worker Letitia Selby wants to see a $15-per-hour minimum wage become reality in North Carolina.
North Carolina child care worker Letitia Selby wants to see a $15-per-hour minimum wage become reality in North Carolina. Courtesy BerlinRosen Public Affairs

From Letitia Selby, a childcare worker in Cary:

The election results were shocking and heartbreaking to many – reinforcing divisions based on race, religion, gender and class. In the aftermath, there’s been a lot of talk about the working class’ role. While many see us as at odds with one another, the fact is we have more in common than not. We share the dream of a middle class life, and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

On Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the Fight for $15 movement, we will prove just that. As a child care worker, I’ll be standing with thousands of other low-wage workers across the country to let newly elected officials know we have no plans of backing down. We want higher pay, the right to form unions, an end to racism and deportations, and basics like healthcare and education. In the wake of the election, our fight is more important than ever.

I’ve taught and cared for pre-school and school-aged children for 15 years, first in New York and now in North Carolina. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. Our profession invests so much time and energy providing the care and attention young children need to become productive, responsible young adults.

But, despite a degree in early childhood education, I am still only paid $10 an hour. This means hard choices: deciding between putting gas in my car and keeping the electricity on; paying off my student loan or writing a check for rent.

The average pay for child care workers is just $10.31 an hour. And without a raise, too many child care workers are forced to leave the field, impacting the children and families that rely on our care. Our system is severely broken.

Watching generation after generation struggle, I am more determined than ever to win $15 per hour for providers and workers everywhere.

It’s a cycle I’m determined to end.

Thankfully, as part of the Fight for $15, I have learned I am not alone in this struggle.

The Fight for $15 isn’t just about my job or my pay, but about the futures of all of our children – and indeed our country, too. Winning $15/hour would mean child care workers could work without constant financial stress, and provide children and families with the quality care they deserve.

Over the past four years, our movement has changed the lives of millions of working people and families across this country, and I’m fighting to change it for millions more. We’ve already won a path to $15 for 22 million Americans in states like California and New York, and we’re not stopping now.

We’re banding together stronger than ever to fight for union rights and keep demanding higher wages. And, we’re putting every politician on notice – whether in local office or at the highest level – that we won’t stand for policies that divide our country. That means that any efforts to roll back our healthcare, deport immigrants, or enact racist policies on the American people are going to be met with the fiercest opposition.

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