The pandemic revealed the essential workforce that is holding up our economy: women, women of color, and immigrants. These are our essential workforce and they are the people who make our economic engine move forward. They are powering our economic recovery. To ensure a complete recovery from the pandemic, we must thoughtfully include this essential workforce in our policies, practices, and decision-making
Following are the remarks made by Community Action Marin CEO, Chandra Alexandre, on the role of our essential workforce in Marin at the Marin Communications Forum in July 2022.
When we consider the landmark report that our four frontline agencies released in January 2022 on “Equitable Pandemic Recovery Strategies for Marin County,” we have identified both urgent short-term needs and longer-term needs. We have to acknowledge the inequities, the disparities, and the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on our communities.
The pandemic revealed who is really holding up the economy – it’s women, it’s women of color, and it’s immigrants. These are our essential workforce and they are the people who make our economic engine move forward and are powering our economic recovery.
Women, women of color, and immigrants do so much to support our economy by providing needed childcare services, 0-5 and beyond to school age, to help other people get to school and to work. Childcare is the number one need that our economy requires to function.
At Community Action Marin we are focused on supporting family well-being through necessary direct services, childcare services and supports, and social services more broadly to ensure that families are strong, and able to attain self-sufficiency and beyond.
The intersection of public health and social services needs to become stronger, so that we can function as a support system that can help alleviate the causes and consequences of poverty in our community.
To make change happen, it takes the direct work that our organizations do through service provision each and every day, and it also takes our stepping up and into a space of advocacy for ourselves, for others, and for our community.
Family well-being is also about mental health, and the pandemic dramatically increased our stress and anxiety about critical services, jobs, and housing. What our collective work as frontline organizations has shown is that we must use the lens of racial inequity and income disparities to sharpen our focus on how we can keep putting people at the center and how we get to a viable recovery.
The other urgent issue that I want to touch on is the need to pay our early childhood workforce a fair wage. The work of caring is an undervalued and underpaid profession, and it is traditionally the work of women, women of color, and immigrants. The pandemic showed us the true cost of childcare which increased by 47% without any corresponding degree of increase of wages. We are facing an urgent shortage of staff and qualified teachers to support families in their well-being and help support our economy.
We need to build a long-term strategy and coalition around early childhood education, anchored around fair wages for our people. This requires partnerships and advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels, and we have to start now in our own backyard.