I’m worried about the future of Iowa’s working families. A good education and hard work just isn’t enough to make ends meet anymore. Child care costs have skyrocketed in Iowa and across the country, while Iowa’s minimum wage remains stagnant at $7.25 an hour.
For an Iowa family with two children under 5 years old, child care costs an average of $17,000 a year. That’s only $2,000 less than the yearly salary of someone earning $10 an hour. Wages haven’t kept up with costs, and Iowa families are struggling. Moms and dads shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and being there for their families.
These are not Iowa-specific issues. These are national issues that we need to bring to the forefront of a national conversation. That’s why I’m proud to be a co-founder of the Make It Work Campaign, to make sure equal pay, affordable child care and a family-friendly workplace are part of the political dialogue and discussion.
Make It Work is a statewide organization focused on personalizing these issues and sharing real-life experiences of everyday people. We’re knocking on doors in Iowa and meeting moms like Rochean Cofield, who cannot afford care for her autistic daughter. Cofield works as a financial adviser and always believed a good education guaranteed an adequate salary. She never thought she would have to choose between caring for her autistic daughter and paying the bills. Cofield is African-American and female, and African-American women in Iowa earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to a man.
Our issues don’t belong to a particular political party and should receive bi-partisan support. That’s another reason I’m excited about Make It Work. We live in a polarizing political atmosphere where Democrats and Republicans rarely agree on anything. Helping working families is one of the few issues where Republicans and Democrats have met in the middle.
In a nationwide poll we conducted in August, we found three-quarters of voters support a plan that would expand access to affordable, quality child care, strengthen equal pay laws, create a paid family and medical leave program, ensure paid sick days, and raise the minimum wage. Majority support for the plan extends across partisan lines, including 57 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Independents who favor the plan.
There are too many women like Cofield who continue to struggle despite getting an education and working a steady job. Their situation will not improve until we address gender and racial wage gaps.
We need to push for legislation that advocates a family-friendly work environment including policies that ensure paid family leave and paid sick days. Caring for a sick child should not mean risking your job.
We’ve got to combat the rising costs of child care. It shouldn’t cost as much to send a child to daycare as it does to send a freshman to college. Most importantly, we need our public officials to know that we’re tired of their talking points. Empty promises and sound bites aren’t enough. It’s time to pass polices that help working moms like Cofield access quality child care without going broke.
It’s 2016, and modern times call for modern policies. Together, we can lead the fight to make our voices heard, advocate legislation and improve the lives of working moms and dads across the country.
Tracy Sturdivant is co-director and co-founder of Make It Work. She makes it work by traveling, pretending she’s a contestant on Top Chef, and spending time with her family—especially her nephew in Detroit, her hometown.
This post originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/abetteriowa/2016/01/29/policies-need-support-modern-families/79469760/