Monday is Labor Day, a national holiday we’ve marked for more than 100 years. It’s probably safe to say that we have a new appreciation or, at the least, a new perspective on most things related to labor since we marked Labor Day last year.
It’s been heartening to see that the current pandemic has renewed our gratitude for caregivers. In medical settings, we’ve watched doctors, nurses, hospital and nursing home staff, first responders and many others labor on the front lines to battle this horrific virus.
In more behind-the-scenes settings, many others had to step up or adjust their caregiving roles for the sake of children who could no longer safely attend school in person. Within the home, it was parents, grandparents or other family members. Within schools, it was staff and food service personnel. Within the community, it was childcare providers who kept their doors open specifically to help those essential workers who had to report to their jobs.
Going forward, it’s critical that policy and lawmakers pay attention to how the pandemic impacted these caregivers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around one in five working-age adults said the reason they were not working at some point this summer was because COVID-19 disrupted their childcare arrangements and, by far, this had a greater impact on women than men. This fact could explain one reason why local manufacturers are having a difficult time finding employees.
Findings from a Census Bureau survey in July found that about 12 percent of Americans live in households where there was either sometimes or often not enough to eat in the previous seven days. The meals food service staff packed and handed out with help from school staff were crucial then and ongoing nutritional supports for families with children will likely continue to be critical. The same goes for food giveaways coordinated by the Four County Community Foundation, the Hispanic Service Center and area churches.
Public policy leaders say that the state’s childcare infrastructure is broken and the pandemic only made the situation worse. The Michigan League for Public Policy said lawmakers could start with the expansion of childcare subsidies to more low-wage workers—again, another factor that’s likely playing in to the apparent labor shortage.
Now that school is back in session for most local families, some of those caregiving roles will shift again and dedicated teachers and administrators will be doing everything they can to teach and care for their students. We recognize the extra time and attention our districts are giving to their charges and hope that state leaders don’t overlook the significant roles education plays in shaping our future, on multiple levels, for the better.
This Labor Day, we honor all laborers, and particularly caregivers of all kinds, that have sustained us through this difficult time and will continue to care at all levels in the months and years to come.