September 30th, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 378. The bill is important because it grants in-home childcare providers the ability to negotiate with the state of California for retirement benefits, health care, and wage subsidies.
Predominantly women of colors, childcare providers’ prevailing rates are shockingly low. Technically small business owners, they do not have an explicit employer to negotiate a contract with. Many in-home childcare providers can barely make ends meet, and they can be very isolated—they work in their homes, and they often don’t have access to a larger network of other providers. That is why childcare providers have been fighting for 16 years to form a union of their own.
The title “A Labor of Love” is a direct quote from the childcare providers we met. It is also a concept referred by the feminist Marxist, Sylvia Federici, in her propaganda of the “Wage for Housework” campaign, used to indicate that unwaged housework is often mystified as love, a labor that has been imposed and naturalized as women’s duty.
Four decades after the campaign, housework can now be outsourced to domestic workers and childcare providers, yet it is still seriously undervalued—workers of waged housework are predominately underpaid. When the providers said childcare is “a labor of love”, they do not merely stress the fact that childcare is a labor, but a labor requiring a significant investment of love. This love does not come from nowhere; it comes from the nutritious meals they make, the educational tools and storybooks they prepare, and the safe playrooms they design; it comes from their time and energy, their labor and funding.