In This Lifetime Please: Why We Can’t Wait 216 Years to Close the Latina Pay and Wealth Gap | Equal Rights Advocates
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In This Lifetime Please: Why We Can’t Wait 216 Years to Close the Latina Pay and Wealth Gap

November 7, 2017 | by

This piece was co-authored by Mónica Ramírez, Deputy Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). It originally appeared on Medium. 

A new report released just last week by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research indicates that the Latina wage gap will not close until 2233 at its current pace. If we sit back and wait, most of us will be long gone before Latinas will be paid what they deserve.

We’re thinking about this now because, on November 2, we observed Latina Equal Pay Day. This day marks how long into this calendar year a Latina working full-time must work to equal the wages paid to white, non-Hispanic men in 2016. Latinas must work 22 months to make as much as white men were paid in 12 months because they average just 54 cents to every dollar paid to white men. This inequity results in a loss of over $26,000 per year for the average Latina worker, which is enough to cover several years of childcare or rent and utilities. Latinas fare worse in some states, including California where they average just 43 cents on the dollar paid to white men.

While the national Latina Equal Pay day of action is over, our work cannot stop because the magnitude of the problem is so vast.

Not only are Latinas denied hundreds of thousands of dollars in income over their work lives, they are also concentrated in occupations where it is difficult for them to meet their basic needs and nearly impossible for them to save for the future. Latinas are among the most likely to be excluded from opportunities to build overall wealth.

  • Only 37.8% of Latinos have access to employer-provided retirement plans (compared to 62.3% of white workers);
  • Only 14% of Latinas own stock (as compared to 45% of White women);
  • Latinas are far more likely to be victims of asset-stripping practices — they are 1.5 more likely than white men to see wealth stripped by predatory mortgage lenders even though they have higher average credit scores;
  • 40.5% of Latina mothers are primary or sole breadwinners, and are more likely to take on second and third jobs to care for their families.

Jobs with unreliable schedules, without paid sick and family leave, or subcontractor work without medical and other benefits compound income inequality stressors on Latinas across the country. Excluded from wealth-generating benefits and victimized by predatory financial practices, Latinas own only pennies on the dollar compared to white men and women.

This kind of economic disenfranchisement intersects with and exacerbates the sexual harassment Latinas experience at work. Latinas living paycheck to paycheck often must tolerate sexual harassment because they cannot afford to leave a job or risk termination by complaining. Tipped minimum wage laws (allowing workers to be paid just $2.13/hour) render sexual harassment and other substandard work conditions the price of a paycheck. Entire groups of workers, like agricultural workers, are excluded from minimum work standards, like overtime, and protections provided by unionization, which has a direct positive impact on closing the gender wage gap — as well as a stronger ally to fight on-site harassment and violence.

The stories of Latinas fighting every day as part of a labor movement to change this reality and ensure women hold leadership roles within the movement put a fire in our bellies. Our call to action is simple: We want to raise the minimum wage and demand that one fair wage replaces tipped minimum wages. We call for the extension of minimum worker protections for farmworkers, domestic workers, caregivers and others who have been excluded from these protections. We push for stronger fair pay laws prohibiting reliance on prior salary in setting hiring wages; require equal pay for substantially similar work; and secure pay transparency so that more Latinas know when their work is being devalued.

The magnitude of this problem and its consequences require ongoing and sustained efforts by all of us. We demand to see these changes now, so that our Latina sisters are celebrating a lot more than mere equality by 2233.

Equal Pay Today!, a project of the Tides Center, is an innovative collaboration of women’s and workers’ rights organizations working at the state, regional, and national level to close the gender wage gap and engage diverse constituencies in the fight for equal pay. Follow us on Twitter at @EqualPay2DayOrg and learn more at www.equalpaytoday.org.

LCLAA and Equal Rights Advocates are members of Equal Pay Today! and Noreen Farrell serves as chair.

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