Let’s begin with some troubling numbers. Latinas in this country must work 23 months, or nearly two years, to make what a white, non-Hispanic man earns in one year. They are the breadwinners in over 3 million households but have an average of $26,095 less to spend on necessities such as medical care, childcare, or groceries for themselves and their children.
There are several key drivers of the gender wage gap, including pregnancy discrimination, caregiver discrimination, unequal compensation, inadequate minimum wage laws, and lack of access to paid leave and affordable childcare. However, on Latina Equal Pay Day what must not be ignored is that the pay gap for Latinas is attributable to sexism, prejudice, and anti-immigration policies, a multi-layered burden that white women do not face. Latinos also earn less than white, non-Latino men, making 73 cents to every white man’s dollar as compared to 82 cents. Consequently, the solutions to the problem of unequal pay for Latinas must be intersectional and multi-fold.
At A Better Balance, we are fighting for a more just economy and to end discrimination that contributes to the stark wage gap for Latinas. We are working throughout the country to pass pregnant worker fairness laws to ensure that women can stay healthy on the job while pregnant without sacrificing their economic security. Latinas are more likely to have physically demanding jobs which make the need for reasonable accommodations on the job all the more important. For instance, Latinas make up 6.5% of the workforce, but 26.1% of workers employed as hand packers and packagers and 44.9% of workers employed as maids and housekeeping cleaners, making an average of just over $9/hr.
We are also fighting for an end to employers relying on or asking for an applicant’s prior salary, a practice that perpetuates the wage gap since women and men of color begin making less at the outset of their careers so their lower salaries follow them from job to job. Yesterday, New York City, marked the one-year anniversary of its salary history law, which has been implemented with great success and has gone a long way in changing norms and paradigms in the hiring process. Past discrimination, both racial and gender-based, should not influence employer’s salary decisions. Furthermore, an end to the tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers, 70% of whom are women, disproportionately women of color.
Latinx workers are also the least likely to have access to paid leave and flexible schedules, which is why we’re working around the country, from New York to Nashville, to pass and enforce strong paid family and medical leave laws. In California, where the state’s paid family leave law took effect in 2004, the law has led to increased hours of work for women returning from leave, corresponding to an increase in wages.
There is no one solution to ending the wage gap. But if we do not actively work in an intersectional way to close it, Latinas will not achieve pay equality until the 23rd Century. We simply cannot let that happen on our watch.