That split is playing out in real time as the coronavirus vaccine is rolled out.
President Biden recently announced that all teachers and child care workers should be prioritized for a shot by the end of March. That will force a change in Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma, where educators were made eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine before child care employees. Even in the many states, including New York, where child care workers have been given priority for the shot, some workers have struggled to get vaccinated.
Child care employees in Washington, D.C., were initially not prioritized alongside teachers. “It is crucial — and equitable — to provide vaccinations for the child care teachers and workers who have swallowed their fears, donned their P.P.E., and shown up at work day after day to provide crucial care for D.C.’s children,” wrote Kristen Maxson, the director of a nursery school in Washington, in a petition urging the city to change its policy, which it recently did.
In New York, Ms. Collier has said there has been no streamlined way for her employees to make appointments, whereas the United Federation of Teachers, which represents tens of thousands of New York City teachers, is matching members with available doses through agreements with local health care providers.
The U.F.T. has greater influence in city politics than District Council 37, a larger union that represents many child care workers, after-school employees and other essential workers, along with many white-collar employees who have worked remotely during the pandemic.
Many other child care workers around the country — the majority of whom are nonwhite — are in unions that do not have the same political clout as teachers’ unions, and many are not unionized at all. That dynamic, along with differences in teaching credentials, helps explain why child care workers tend to make significantly less money than public schoolteachers.