Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren stopped in San Jose on Friday to meet with local child care workers who shared challenges with a growing workload and shrinking paychecks.
The Massachusetts senator used the campaign stop to tout her plan for universal, federally-funded child care and higher wages for providers. The Silicon Valley visit, hosted by the Service Employees International Union, came on the heels of new legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September, that allows in-home child care providers to form a union.
Warren spent a portion of the day with San Jose child care provider Rosa Carreño, who runs a child care center from her home, helping her with tasks such as playing with the children, preparing for lunch and naptime. Later in the day, she joined Carreño and five others at a San Jose child care center to discuss the state of child care in Silicon Valley and across the nation.
“I’m sorry it took you 16 years to get here but you are truly the best walking, talking advertisement for why workers need unions,” Warren told the group, adding that strong unions are the key to raising wages in America and “building a stronger middle class.”
One child care provider asked Warren how she would ensure the federally-funded Head Start program, which increasingly serves “more black and brown children” from low-income families will stay afloat amid dwindling government resources.
Warren, a former special education teacher, said she’s a “huge supporter” of Head Start and would fund an expansion of the program through her proposed wealth tax. Her plan calls for a 2 percent tax on the nation’s wealthiest families after they reach a net worth of $50 million or more. Households with a net worth above $1 billion would be taxed at 6 percent.
“That would provide enough money to provide universal child care for every baby from age 0 to 5,” Warren said, in addition to including more children in Head Start, regardless of the family’s income, and raising wages of child care workers and preschool teachers. “People with lots of money put their kids in enrichment programs… that’s the whole idea with Head Start. With a 2 percent wealth tax, we can afford to do that across the board.”
The tax would target billionaires who own property, stocks and yachts, Warren said, and could also bolster federal resources for public schools, including historically black colleges and universities.
Warren on Friday wasn’t shy about going after corporations to fund federal child care programs and other government services, a familiar talking point in her campaign. Carreño told the senator that Silicon Valley’s roads are in poor condition and the housing crisis continues pushing out working families, asking how companies can do their part to combat these challenges.
Warren proposed charging corporations a 7 percent tax to invest in infrastructure, roads and housing, calling out Amazon which she said publicly reported $10 billion in profits last year and paid zero federal taxes.
“Our problem is those at the top don’t want to pay taxes. And I get it — who does?” Warren said. “But everyone here pays their taxes. Everybody here pay at least a dollar in taxes last year? If you did, you paid more than Amazon and Amazon made $10 billion in profits and paid zero taxes.”
She added that working families cannot be the only ones “carrying the burden while they freeload.”
On the topic of health care insurance for child care providers, Warren said she supports Medicare for All which would ensure providers, as well as their families would be covered. She promised her plan would not raise taxes on the middle class or small businesses.
“I believe health care is a basic human right and we should make it available to all of us,” she said. “We can ask those at the top to pay a little bit more and have health care for everyone.”
The new law allowing in-home child care providers in California to join a union, AB 378, goes into effect Jan. 1 and makes California the 12th state to allow collective bargaining for providers. It is expected to affect roughly 40,000 in-home health care providers.
Despite the high costs of child care in California, a recent Stanford University study found nearly 60 percent of child care workers rely on some form of public assistance. The new law, which gives the providers the right to bargain for better pay and benefits, was backed by SEIU. Opponents, meanwhile, called it a “union grab.”
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.