Primaries for the 2022 midterms are already underway — just look at the hotly contested Texas elections — and Democrats need to buckle down and prove to voters that they’re delivering on promises. That’s especially true for Black women, who made the difference at the ballot box in 2018 and 2020 — returning the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats, sending Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House, and electing a (slim) majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Black women have long been regarded as Democrats’ electoral saviors, yet have rarely been truly heard nor heeded when it comes to meaningful policymaking.
People say, “Listen to Black women.” But listen to this: Black women, just like the rest of the Democratic base, will have little motivation to turn out to the polls in 2022 and 2024 if Congress fails to deliver on their campaign promises to us. We’re expecting nothing less than transformative investments that change the game for working people and women of color — an economy that works for Black women is an economy that works for everyone.
Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander and indigenous women and immigrants make up the lion’s share of our nation’s home care workforce. We have been mobilizing since before President Biden took office to demand a significant investment in our nation’s care infrastructure, which includes care for our nation’s seniors, children and people with disabilities, serving families and communities. The President heard our demands and included them in his vision for how to rebuild equitably through and after the pandemic. He even went a step further, recently announcing new measures to support care workers, including introducing new measures to support nursing home workers and curtail corporate greed in the nursing home industry.
Not only is this investment a cornerstone of Black women’s policy agenda and one of the most impactful proposals currently being heard on the Hill, but it’s also one of the most popular across the country. In red, blue and purple districts, among people of all backgrounds, expanding access to quality, affordable home care and raising wages for home care workers consistently tops the list of demands among voters. Recent Data For Progress polling data shows that investments in long-term care lead among President Biden’s policy proposals, gaining support from a whopping 78% of likely voters. This is the case across party lines and in every ZIP code.
Investing in our nation’s home care workers and consumers would be a smart political move by any measure. By investing $150 billion in care infrastructure, we can begin to meet ballooning needs for home care as the U.S. population rapidly ages (and as seniors express overwhelmingly that they’d prefer to age in place at home). Ten thousand people turn 65 every single day in this country, and we do not have a care system that is prepared to care for them adequately. This is an issue that will affect every single American in the years to come.
As we expand access to care services, we can ensure home care workers — who are 87% women — have a fighting chance at a quality of life by making home care jobs good-paying, union jobs. Home care is one of the fastest-growing jobs in our economy, yet home care workers live in poverty and all too often are denied a voice on the job. We can build a stronger, more inclusive middle class centered on the women who perform care work, who have been dismissed and devalued for generations as the result of racial and gender inequities.
When home care workers showed up in cities like Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee to organize, turn out and clinch Democrats’ electoral victories, they weren’t just fighting on behalf of themselves. They were fighting to strengthen our economy, make life easier for working families, and make our communities more resilient and just. They put forward a plan to tackle economic and racial injustice dating back generations, and now they’re counting on Washington to take on this urgent task.
Taking home care workers and Black women voters for granted would be a grave political mistake, in addition to a moral failure. It’s well past time for our leaders in Washington to acknowledge the urgency of these issues. Black women demand that these leaders champion our demands. While obstructionist Republicans are the biggest impediment to change, Black voters are impatient for Congress to stop playing by outdated rules. Of course, Republicans stopped heeding them a long time ago.
Regardless of the roadblocks they’ve faced in this Congress, Senators still have the opportunity to show Black women voters that our votes count and our priorities matter by passing President Biden’s full agenda, including a game-changing investment in home care. President Biden is signaling he’ll do everything in his power to support care workers, including introducing new measures to support nursing home workers and curtail corporate greed in the nursing home industry. Now it’s time for Congress to follow through. A bold and comprehensive investment in working people of all races and backgrounds would help catalyze an equitable economic recovery. It’s also a surefire way to win favor with all voters across the board.
April Verrett is the President of SEIU 2015, the nation’s largest union of long-term care workers and California’s largest union.