Despite frigid temperatures, a handful of current and former child care workers came together Saturday to demand that Governor Bruce Rauner renegotiate the state's bad interest-rate swap deals with Wall Street and redirect the funds to child care programs. The ralliers also called on Rauner to expand the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which was downsized due to changes to eligibility requirements in July.
Shivering hands passed out informational leaflets to those entering and exiting the Bank of America at 250 West 83rd Street in Chicago as the protesters sought to educate local residents about the interest-rate swap deals and reduced access to affordable child care services. The Valentine's themed protest called on Paul Lambert, Bank of America's Chicago market president, to "Have a Heart" and redirect profits made from toxic swap deals to child care services that can be made available to all residents.
Child care worker Brenda McMillon attended the event to campaign for fair taxation and health benefits for child care workers.
"What I would like to see done is to have the rich pay their fair share," said McMillon. "The toxic swap deals made the banks $135 million, but we've lost spaces in the child care assistance program."
"I don't understand that," continued McMillon. "I feel like if they paid their fair share, there would be universal child care for everyone."
McMillon described life as a child care worker as "difficult," citing long working hours and low wages.
"We can work anywhere from 12 to 18 hours a day," said McMillon. "We don't get paid for all the children all the time, so we may need to work longer hours to pull in some extra money. We do that in the hopes of getting paid."
Child care workers have called for improved benefits in the past, citing a lack of health care coverage and low wages. A study done by the Economic Policy Institute found child care workers to be some of the lowest paid in the country, earning a median hourly wage of $10.31.
Mary Denton Zavala also attended Saturday's demonstration. Zavala left the child care profession, saying she wasn't able to make a living wage in the field.
"I didn't have any money coming in so I had to find another job," said Zavala. "I do home care now and it's low paying because they've got cuts there too."
After living expenses, child care workers take home about $5 an hour as a child care worker, according to an SEIU* Healthcare Illinois release.
"That's not even minimum wage," explained Zavala. "It means you eat a lot of pork, beans, and hot dogs. That's not funny."
Zavala took special aim at State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) over his vote against legislation that would have reversed Rauner's cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program. Zavala says Dunkin made a promise to child care workers that he didn't keep.
"He promised to vote with us and stand with us and do everything he can to get that money," said Zavala. "He promised a child that he'd vote with us. He talked with Rauner and he didn't even vote at all. That messed us up."
"If you'll lie to a child, you'll lie to anybody," said Zavala.
Last November, Dunkin defended his decision to vote against the bill, arguing that Democrats were being "vindictive" and trying to embarrass the governor.
"There was no need for the bill to be run, other than being vindictive towards (Rauner)," Dunkin told the Chicago Tribune.
Some 2,500 families lost access to child care last July due to Rauner's changes to the CCAP eligibility requirements.
Vanessa Land, a home care provider who attended the event, said working families need access to child care.
"I don't have any children, but I'm out here fighting for child care because any parent should be able to have their children go to child care daycare centers," said Land.
"You're struggling enough to just to live, you shouldn't have to struggle to take care of your children," she added.
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