Rockford childcare workers fight for better pay

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 7:35 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - As contract negotiations take place in the state capitol, local childcare workers stand together for better pay.

In Illinois, more than 45,000 home and childcare providers speak the same slogan: make care jobs, good jobs. Brynn Seibert, SEIU vice president of childcare and early living, says meeting their demands is the only way to fight the state workforce crisis.

“Members are committed to speaking up and speaking out about the need to invest in the car workforce about the kinds of solutions we need to see to grow homecare, to grow childcare, to ensure that it’s serving families,” Seibert says.

Workers are asking for an increase in pay rates for childcare workers and a pathway to $25 an hour for home care. These requests are what providers say would put them on track for living wages and a secure retirement.

Rep. Maurice West (D-IL 67) has shared his support for the workers, comparing them to angels on earth. Governor Pritzker has also shown support for the workers, but they are currently bargaining with the Pritzker administration.

“I’m tired of hearing health care workers and childcare workers come to me and say, “I have to make a decision, if I want to stay here and do my passion or get a better job at McDonalds, that is paying me more.” That is unacceptable,” West says.

Rockford contract representative Jeffery Higdon is one care worker joining the fight. He says better pay means happier workers; happier workers mean happier customers.

“If you make it to where we don’t have to come here, we don’t have to go to pantries, we don’t have to apply for public aid because we’re making a living wage, and that living wage needs to be high enough for their families to survive,” Higdon says.

On Nov. 8, care workers gathered In Springfield to speak out about the value of care work and the importance of investing in the Illinois care workforce. While no legislation is moving yet, the event kicked off a series of rallies across the state.

More than 18% of those living in Winnebago County are 65 years and older. The U.S. Census Bureau released data on disability characteristics in Winnebago County. The data shows that there are more people needing home care, than there are receiving it. Seibert is hopeful negotiations will lead to more home care jobs to meet the growing need.