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SEIU

"I know that a lot of the children, they’re starving by the time they get to my home in the morning. And a lot of times, you can just see it. They’re weak. And you can look at the parents and you can see that they’re weak. I sacrifice my groceries, I sacrifice water, sometimes I have clothing from other children ... sometimes I’ll sneak them into the bag. There have been times when I've gone to the Salvation Army if I had extra money and I know that there was a child in need."

Nicole Small, a child care worker in Detroit shared the above story. This is her reality. And she's not alone.

You see, there are people who love their jobs. I mean really love their jobs.


Their work makes them feel fulfilled. It makes them feel purposeful. They're giving back to their community. They're helping people who actually cannot help themselves. They're shaping the minds of young children whose parents are struggling to put food on the table. They are their client's backbone. They hold them up and keep them strong as life throws challenges their way. They're proud of what they do.

But they go home after spending eight or more hours at work and often can't afford to put food on their own tables.

Nicole Small, a child care worker in Detroit. All photos via SEIU, used with permission.

Many times, they have no savings, no chance for retirement. Often they can't afford to own a car, and if it's a necessity they can't get away from, they can't afford gas. Still, they refuse to feel hopeless.

This is a reality for so many child care and home care workers in this country.

They work hard every day, doing jobs that are absolutely necessary — in many cases saving lives. But they can't support themselves. They make such a low wage that basics like socks need to be budgeted for. They're on public assistance and are barely scraping by. And many of us don't know about it. But as leaders in the Fight for 15 movement, they're making their voices heard and sharing their stories.

Home care and child care  workers at a Fight for $15 rally.

Many care workers struggle every day to make ends meet:

Nicole (child care)

"To be honest with you, it’s hard not to [survive]. When you’re looking at those children, it’s hard not to. I don’t know, you just kick into survival mode ... it’s just a part of your everyday life. Does it get exhausting? Are you tired? Absolutely. But what are you going to do when you have children here and you know that they need you."

Melissa Benjamin (home care)

"As a woman and working in home care, I have found myself completely dependent on my husband for everything. Even gas to get to my job. Because my job doesn’t pay a wage where I can support that. And so it creates this co-dependency on other people ... and there’s not a lot of dignity in that."

Melissa Benjamin, a home care worker in Colorado.

And as they fight for fair wages and a voice on the job, they’re worried that people don’t understand their struggle.

Denise Major (home care)

"You’re going to do work above and beyond the call of duty anyways simply because that’s someone that you love and you care about. ... It’s like you’re working but you’re still in poverty. And you’re working long hours and you’re working alone."

Denise Major, a home care worker in Pennsylvania.

Patricia Walker (home care)

"Everybody can’t do it. ... It takes a special person to go into somebody’s home and take care of them and give them that love and attention."

Sepia Coleman (home care)

"We are invisible. We’re not appreciated. We’re totally disrespected. And we have more financial struggles than time allows. We are literally the lowest paid people in our field, with the population of people that we work with."

Pavonne Scott (child care)

"We work so hard, tirelessly with the children, and then we can’t come home and pay our own bills. You’re giving so much and every day that you give goes straight to the bills. And that has been the biggest challenge."

Home care and child care  workers at a Fight for $15 rally.

Melissa (home care)

"I wish people knew that it requires skill. A lot of people will say, 'Well, it’s just home care; you’re just like a babysitter. Why would you need a fair wage for that? All you’re doing is cooking and cleaning.' But no, there’s more that goes into it than that. There’s a lot more that goes into it."

Still, they show up for work every day, in spite of the challenges, because they love their jobs and know how vital they are.

Patricia (home care)

"I love what I do. I love my people. I don’t call them clients anymore because I’ve been with them for a minute. So they’re like my family. ... I want to be involved with them and I just love what I do. That’s the only way I can say it. I love what I do."

Pavonne (child care)

"The children need teaching. The children are our future ... it’s a heavy responsibility."

Pavonne Scott, a child care worker in Florida.

Melissa (home care)

"I’m a caregiver. I know people need care, and it’s what I do. And also, I like home care because I find that people are happier in their homes. When they’re in their homes, they feel secure and valued and comfortable. Knowing that there’s a need for that has kept me in it."

Nicole (child care)

"If you really care about the children, the quality of their education and the quality of their life, that’s what you do. You just jump in, and you help out in any area that you can."

Sepia (home care)

"I know that I am doing a good service to someone who is in need of care. And I know that one day, it could be me ... that’s what keeps me motivated and keeps me going."

Sepia Coleman, a home care worker in Tennessee.

And they’re fighting for $15 and a union because it gives them hope that better days are around the corner.

Denise (home care)

"I know I have a voice now. I know I no longer have to suffer in silence, and I can help other home care workers to kind of help them help themselves. ... We have a unique situation because we all work in separate places, so we rarely ever congregate unless it’s a rally or something like that. ... So I just want to let other home care workers know that we’re not alone. ... We have a voice and we can call each other. And we can kind of feel like we’re not on an island by ourselves and feeling stuck and helpless."

Sepia (home care)

"Everybody that has a job should have dignity and respect ... every job is not for everybody. But if the job is done in the best of performing, please show that person that you appreciate them. Don’t have a person working for your company eight or nine, 10 years, and they have to come and beg you for the compensation of a raise. It’s not fair to them. We’re not slaves, we’re people."

Patricia (home care)

"I ride the bus to my clients every day. I can’t afford a car. It’s very important to me that no one that’s coming up after me has to go through what I’m going through. Or what I’ve been through."

Patricia Walker, a home care worker in Florida.

Nicole (child care)

"It means that our children will be able to be more competitive when they go to a standard school like kindergarten or middle school ... they’ll have a better education and they’ll have a better quality of life. That’s what it means to me for the children. And what it means to me for myself? It means that I can give them more."

Melissa (home care)

"That’s what this movement is about. It’s about dignity. Giving dignity to the home care workers and the client."

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