Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Watching cars pays better than watching kids in Washington State

Emily Yoffe spent two weeks volunteering at a day care center to find out whether she can “cut it as a day care worker, one of the most exhausting, worst paid, and smelliest jobs in America.”

Halfway through her article on, she points out:

only a handful of the more than 800 occupations surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have lower wages [than day care workers] – these include parking lot attendants and dishwashers.

Not true in Washington State, where the average salary of a parking lot attendant is $10.12 per hour, and the day care worker makes…$9.78. The dishwasher makes $9.20, in case you were wondering.

Washington has taken some incremental steps to fix the problem, such as a Career and Wage Ladder that links teacher wages to their education and experience in 72 child care centers across the state.

The Ladder is so popular that there is a list of child care centers waiting to join it – state funding is lagging far behind demand.

And the innovative collective bargaining agreement floated in the legislature last year, if passed, would allow all childcare center employees (including directors) to vote whether to create one statewide union for teachers and directors.

That would allow them to negotiate with the state for increased resources – like health insurance, increased subsidies, and funding for training and education – that would make the job of child care worker quite a bit more attractive.

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