The Worthy Wage Campaign
The Worthy Wage Campaign is a grassroots effort led by child care teachers, family child care providers, school age teaching staff, Head Start teachers and others who work directly with children to mobilize to improve the compensation and work environments for the early care and education workforce. Together, advocates have a stronger voice and are able to build alliances with parents and others in the community, foster respect, and promote accessible and affordable high-quality early care and education to meet the diverse needs of children and families.
The Worthy Wage Campaign began in 1991 and was coordinated by CCW until 1999. The national campaign, originally intended to last five years, was initiated to draw attention to the importance of child care work and the urgent need to improve child care jobs. The campaign was highly successful in creating a network of individuals, advocates, parents, and most importantly locally-based campaigns for whom CCW provided resources and technical support, offered leadership training opportunities, and organized an annual retreat.
While the work of the campaign has been fulfilled in the time chosen, the impact that it has left on the early care and education community remains. Several communities continue to be a powerful voice for the early care and education workforce by organizing activities on Worthy Wage Day in honor of the victorious campaign.
Worthy Wage Day
Each year, since the Worthy Wage Campaign, May 1st is recognized as Worthy Wage Day - a day to build community awareness and highlight the importance of quality care for children and its relationship to worthy wages for child care work. Worthy Wage Day is a day of action built on locally-based organizing and outreach that takes place throughout the year. Activities vary widely from community to community, based on each area's needs and level of organization. Local events have included activities such as: rallies, conferences, lobbying efforts, public displays, job shadowing, media events, fundraisers for the local campaign, recognition and celebratory events and more. CCW/AFTEF promotes the day nationally, develops resources and action ideas, and shares information among network members nationwide. The spirit of Worthy Wage Day is still alive. In some communities, local traditions for Worthy Wage Day have been established and we hope they will continue. On this day, teachers, providers, parents and advocates in communities around the country are intentional about speaking out, telling stories and using the media to help spread the message about the staffing crisis amongst the early care and education workforce. We encourage communities to organize and engage in activities to bring attention to early care and education workforce issue.
Worthy Wage Day Grassroots Organizing
Here are some ideas to get you started organizing your own Worthy Wage Day:
NOTE: These ideas may be used on Worthy Wage Day, but can be effective at other times of the year as well.
- Organize a rally or march at your State Capitol, City Hall, city landmark, or other area where you will be visible. Prepare plenty of signs and plan for singing and chanting that will get you noticed and your message heard. Invite speakers such as policymakers, parents, teachers and providers to tell their story and share a message for an increased investment in public funds for child care in order to improve child care jobs. For Worthy Wage Day 2003, Wisconsin advocates, led by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA), gathered 150 parents, teachers and providers who encircled the state capitol in Madison with a paper chain covered with messages and signatures. Participants then visited their legislators, bringing them each a piece of the chain as well as their concerns about child care workforce issues.
- Plan a "teach-in" or professional in service day to educate teachers, providers, directors, educators and others on how to use Model Work Standards, how to be a public policy advocate, etc.
- Organize early care and education job shadows to educate and give an up-close and firsthand perspective on the work of an early care and education professional to interested community members about the realities of early care and education work. In honor of Worthy Wage Day, the Association of Early Childhood Professionals (AECP)in Greensboro, North Carolina, held a morning of "job shadowing" that included public officials and community members, such as representatives from the N.C. Department of Social Services, United Way, the local Smart Start board and a local Teamsters union leader. The participants received a "mock" check that displayed how much they would have earned for the 2 hours of work - they were "horrified" at the amount. The job shadowing was followed by a community dialogue about solutions to the child care staffing crisis.
- Organize a mock child care center in the chamber of your State Capitol. Invite your representatives to take a glimpse of the complexity of what goes on with a group of young children in early care and education settings everyday. Minnesota used this strategy very successfully.
- Create a "Worthy Work, Worthless Wages" public display which includes posters portraying teachers and providers at work along with facts on low wages and high turnover. If your community has established a Living Wage or Self-Sufficiency Standard* compare this with local child care wages. You an also put information on billboards, kiosks, restaurant table tents and other public areas. Display footprints carrying written pledges from early care and education programs to "take one step" toward improved teachers' and providers' jobs.
- Ask parents in your center or family child care home to get involved. Ask them to wear a message sticker to work or to send a postcard to policy makers asking for a direct investment of public funds in improving jobs for the early care and education workforce.
- Organize a postcard writing campaign. Create personalized postcards using photographs of teachers, providers, parents and children, placing paper stickers on the back of the photos, writing your message and mailing them. Another option is asking children to decorate 4x6 index cards, and write your messages on the back.
- Send a message on an infant-size diaper. Include the message, "It's time for a change!" Or, send or deliver peanuts with the message, "We won't keep working for peanuts!"
- Make "Worthy Wage Dolls" by stuffing child-sized clothing and attaching a cardboard head. Create signs for the dolls with messages such as, "If I'm a precious resource, why is my child care provider paid less than a living wage?" or "Why did the child care worker cross the road? To get to her second job!" Dolls may be displayed at public event, in public buildings, storefronts, or delivered to the offices of local elected official and/or community leaders.
- Do a public performace of the ABC Child Care Story, which can be found in Taking on Turnover: An Action Guide for Child Care Center Teachers and Directors, by Marcy Whitebook and Dan Bellam, 1999. Looking for more ideas? Check out the AFT online Worthy Wage Toolkit at http://www.aft.org/yourwork/ece/wwdtoolkit/index.cfm.