19 July 2011

Caring Across Generations: A Movement for Everyone, Especially Women

There was no doubt that a movement, not just a campaign, was launched on July 12 at the first-ever national CARE Congress, an event spearheaded by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Jobs with Justice. [Watch the video.] Over 700 people from diverse sectors nationwide -- unions, domestic worker, disability and immigrant rights groups, faith-based and women's organizations -- gathered in Washington, DC to kick off Caring Across Generations, a movement to ensure access to quality in-home care for the elderly, people with disabilities and others in need, and to ensure dignity and well-being for workers who deliver this critical support. Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis offered resounding endorsements and shared how the need for quality care and quality care jobs had touched their lives. In fact, everyone was encouraged to share their stories, unearthing that we all have someone we love who needs or will need care, and underscoring how access to care is inherently linked to securing rights and respect for those who provide it.

[Watch these wonderfully moving stories about how people of all walks of life share a common vision for long-term care.]

Caring Across Generations will be successful in large part because so many Americans -- no matter their political stripe, citizenship status, race, class, age or ability -- can relate to the fundamental issues it addresses, especially as the Baby Boomer generation ages (beginning this year, someone turns 65 every eight seconds [pdf]) and the demand for in-home, long-term care exponentially grows. We all want to make sure our aging or unwell parents or grandparents are given the care they deserve, that our community members with varying ability can live productive, happy lives in their homes rather than institutions. And we want the option of being able to provide this care ourselves with the support of policies like paid family leave without destroying our finances or losing our jobs.

And while everyone can -- and should -- get on board for improved access to quality "direct care," as it is known in the industry, women have an especially critical stake, and role to play, in the movement's success. Because at the core of this and related advocacy like domestic workers' rights and affordable, quality child care campaigns, is a longstanding call to assign greater value to what's traditionally been considered "women's work." And in assigning it greater value, we can bolster support for everyone who assumes paid or unpaid caregiving roles. We can lift the burden from individuals' shoulders -- across gender -- who struggle in isolation to meet their families' needs, we can guarantee living wages and basic labor protections for the mostly women workers who deliver this indispensable care, and we can ensure collective responsibility for protecting what we have -- like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security which provide a lifeline to care for so many already -- and creating what we need, including millions of new jobs in a time of economic crisis and a path to citizenship for the immigrant women of color domestic workforce.

At the forefront of this movement are women who know just how transformative the reframing of caregiving and "women's work" could be, and understand that if you secure the rights and well-being of those most affected by injustice -- care workers, and care recipients and families among them -- we will all be better off. We, for the sake of rights and well-being of all women, all families, and our entire nation, should join them.

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