All workers are essential

PHOTO: Kids’ Work Chicago Daycare, Flickr CC

My latest column for the Minnesota Reformer appears today. My topic is one part personal and one part political. Childcare providers like my mother are deemed essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis, but few like her are paid a living wage.

Here’s an excerpt:

My mom is a childcare provider in northern Minnesota. She’s started doing that job after she raised my sisters and me. She specializes in infants because she loves babies. She loves babies a lot more than she likes money. I know this because she could earn more at Wal-Mart or a fast food restaurant than she makes taking care of babies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average child care worker in America makes about $19,500, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Being designated an essential worker during the coronavirus pandemic is nice and all. It’s true; these workers are essential. We understand that a health crisis is a matter of life and death. But what kind of life are we trying to preserve? 

Maybe when this is all over we can acknowledge that all workers are essential and see that they’re paid enough to live with dignity. Maybe we can spare the crocodile tears over efforts to improve the lives of the working poor. And maybe we can acknowledge that doing this is what’s really best for our so-called economy. 

Read the whole piece here.



  1. This is so true.

    This crisis has shown the extent to which our society is dependent on the work of people who are usually treated with contempt and disrespect and paid very low wages. It illustrates graphically who the real makers and who the real takers are.

    I propose that for the duration of this crisis, no “essential” worker should make less than $15 an hour, and anyone who has to regularly meet with people routinely be paid time-and-a-half for hazard pay. And after health care and emergency workers, protective equipment should be given to these workers as the next priority.

    As an add-on, all of them should be covered by Medicaid for the duration as well.

    This would have the added benefit of pumping money into the economy, since this money would be spent nearly immediately right here in our community.

    Write your representatives.

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