A new labor-backed campaign plans to spend at least $50 million ahead of the 2024 election to put child and senior care legislation back on the priority list, after it fell out of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda during his administration.
The "Care Can’t Wait" campaign is focused on resurrecting parts of Biden's "Build Back Better" program, including universal child care and guaranteed paid family and medical leave that Democrats were forced to abandon due to opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats. It will also push for billions in new spending for child and senior care.
The campaign is backed by some of the nation’s largest labor unions — including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) — whose members stand to benefit from expanded federal spending, along with some major left-leaning advocacy groups and super PACs, like Priorities USA.
“Care work makes all other work possible, helping children learn and grow, protecting the injured, ill and aging, and keeping our neighborhoods safe,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers union. “Unfortunately, care work remains largely invisible: unprotected by labor laws, and all too often, informal and unrecognized for just how important it is — and just how important care workers are to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our economy.”
Biden has pushed for more federal support for senior and child care, such as his proposal to invest $775 billion over 10 years. But his agenda ran into opposition on Capitol Hill from moderates, like then-Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and was eventually set aside in favor of infrastructure and climate legislation, both of which passed Congress during his first two years in office.
And when Republicans won back the House in 2022, Biden’s care agenda was effectively dead.
To do anything big in 2025, he would not only need to be re-elected but would likely need Democrats to retake the House and hold the Senate — a tall order given Democrats’ grim prospects in next year’s Senate contests.
In addition to traditional advertising campaigns in key battleground states, the campaign's coalition aims to contact 10 million infrequent voters, host town halls for presidential and Senate candidates, commission new research and polling to bolster the argument that their policy is popular, and offer “care immersions” for candidates to spend a day working alongside family and professional caregivers.
“Through Care Can’t Wait Action, we can educate and mobilize our communities, sending a powerful message that care is on the ballot in 2024, ensuring that providers and the families who depend on them have the support they need every day,” said AFSCME president Lee Saunders.
Advocates say the Covid pandemic exposed the need for better support for family care providers, plus the need for more care workers and better compensation for them.
“Our country is in a care crisis — families from every walk of life are grappling with the challenge of accessing high-quality, affordable care. Meanwhile, the largely women of color workforce who provide this vital care are barely getting paid enough to get by,” said Fatima Gross Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund.