Why I’m Joining the Fight for $15

A Child Care Worker to March in a Global Day of Protest

You’ve probably heard that the Fight for $15 campaign recently won higher minimum wages for more than 10 million workers in New York, California, and other states.

You also may have heard that the campaign was started by fast-food workers. But you may not know that thousands of other underpaid workers, including child care workers like me, are involved as well.

In fact, this Thursday, in the lead up to Tax Day, I’m in the streets, taking part in the largest global day of protest by underpaid workers in history. Let me tell you why.

For over 10 years, I’ve work at an early childhood education center in Kansas City, Missouri, teaching 1-year old children.

Every day I engage the kids with songs and projects that develop the language and motor skills that they need to thrive. All the research shows that whether children learn these basic skills at an early age will influence the course of their life. It is my passion to do this work and it’s a really important job.

And yet, I’ve struggled to stay in the field. Despite my years of experience, I am paid only $10.10 an hour. That means a lot of sacrifice.

On the wages I am paid, I rely on public subsidies to afford rent and am forced to live in whatever housing I can get, which is currently public housing.

It’s in an unsafe area and far from work, which means I’m constantly struggling to manage the commute. I’ve tried to move closer to work, but on less than $15/hour, other options are simply out of reach.

Even when I combine my income and my partner’s income — he is paid $8.50/hour as a gas station attendant — we can barely afford to cover our basic household expenses of food, utilities and gas.

Now why are wages so low for child care workers like me?

It starts with the biggest corporations — the giant fast-food companies, big box retailers, manufacturers, and many more.

They pay poverty wages not because they can’t afford more, but because they can get away with it. Then that becomes the pattern in child care, home care, at airports, in health care, even for some of the people who teach in our public universities.

And why is there so little money to support essential services like child care? Because big corporations have rigged the political process so they pay little or no taxes, leaving the rest of us to make up the difference.

This Thursday, I’m protesting low pay and corporate tax avoidance along with underpaid workers in a record 300 U.S. cities and 40 countries on six continents.

We’re talking about how McDonald’s is a symbol of what’s wrong with our economy. Companies like McDonald’s set the standard for poverty wages and tax avoidance that other employers follow.

In fact, just that one company costs taxpayers more than $1 billion per year by paying so little that workers like me have to rely on public benefits — like subsidies for things as basic as housing. You may not know it but nearly three out of four people helped by public assistance are members of a family headed by a worker, and the total cost to taxpayers is more than $150 billion.

Our global protests on the run-up to Tax Day will be about what kind of future we all share.

Will we live in a world where working people can support their families and where corporations pay their fair share of taxes so we have quality child care, home care for seniors and people with disabilities, health care, and education?

Or will we continue to become a society that works only for greedy corporations paying out millions to top executives?

America has plenty of wealth — that’s not the problem. The problem is that our country’s biggest corporations are ripping off taxpayers and workers to get richer, and leaving the rest of us with impossible choices in our lives, every day.

On the eve of this year’s Tax Day, a lot of us are in the streets to say that enough is enough.

And maybe by the next Tax Day, I’ll be paid enough so that I can afford to live close by to the children I care for.

Kristie Robinson teaches at a child care center in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a leader in the Fight for $15.

Kristie Robinson teaches at a child care center in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a leader in the Fight for $15.