March 8th is International Women’s Day.
This year, for many, it will also be ‘A Day Without A Woman.’ Inspired by recent strikes like ‘A Day Without Immigrants’ and the Bodega Strike led by Yemeni store owners in New York, the organizers of the Women’s March decided to take direct action. In their words, “Women and our allies will act together for equity, justice, and the human rights of women and all-gender oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.” The National Women’s Law Center will be closed on March 8th in solidarity with women who are striking in the U.S. and around the world.
This decision to close was not made lightly, and we recognize the privileges afforded to us to make it. We also recognize that for many women in many jobs, especially child care providers, not going to work isn’t a viable option, because they are concerned about losing their jobs, because they can’t afford to lose a day’s worth of income they need to support their own families, or because they feel an obligation to those that depend on the work they do.
The child care workforce is 94% women, and every week they provide care for 11 million children under the age of five. These providers only make, on average, $10.72/hour or $22,310/year. These providers care for and educate the next generation by keeping them healthy and safe and giving them the early learning experiences that are critical to a child’s later success.
Child care providers are also the lynchpin supporting our economy because they allow parents with young children to work. Today, nearly two-thirds of women with young children are working, and these women depend on child care every day in order to earn an income, advance their career, and support their family. Without child care, families with young children couldn’t work and, without these workers, our economy would suffer.
So whether most child care providers are able to join today’s strike or not, it’s important to take some time today to consider what it would mean to the country’s children, families, and economy if providers were not working today and every day. Even the thought of their absence helps us recognize the enormously valuable contribution child care providers make to our society and economy.
The point of strikes, after all, is for people to take notice of an absence. On the recent Day Without Immigrants, I noticed that certain businesses and restaurants I frequent were closed. It helped us recognize how much immigrants contribute to and enrich our lives.
The same is true for women. And it’s especially true for child care providers—it’s one thing to miss out on a meal at your favorite restaurant, but it’s another to manage without the individual who cares for your children.
Whether you are joining the movement today by striking, avoiding spending money (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses), or wearing red in solidarity, we celebrate your contributions to your families and to our economy. And if you are a child care provider, we say thank you today and every day for making it possible for parents to work so they to support their families and helping give children early learning opportunities so they can have a strong start.