Latina Equal Pay
Irene Sanchez, Ph.D.-Xicana Ph.D.
Originally Published in 2017
Latinas are among the lowest paid workers in the U.S. at 54 cents to the dollar. Today marks the day Latinas catch up to white men and their earnings from last year. http://www.latinaequalpay.org/
Wages determine (unfortunately) whether people have enough to eat and a place to live. According to the National Partnership, Latina mothers bring in more than 40 percent of their families income. This means that many Latinx households depend on a Latina mom to bring in the majority of income.
In addition, 3 million families are headed by a Latina. 38 percent are below the poverty line putting 1.1 million Latina headed families in poverty. This is why the wage gap is important to address as well as other concerns for women and mothers that would help uplift not just families, but entire communities as well.
In theory, many people in the U.S. support equal pay according to the National Partnership, but the history of anti-Mexican, anti-Latinx in general in the U.S. is real.
According to Pew Research, wage gaps can be attributed to lower levels of formal schooling and degrees within certain groups, but what happens when systematically these groups don’t have equal access to educational opportunities in K-12 and then for postsecondary education? What ends up happening is that society as a whole shifts the blame to the individual rather than systemic inequalities that have continued to exist since 1848, since Mexican Schools, since women gaining rights to vote, since the continued exploitation of Latina women’s labor in the workforce and at home.
While there are some who rise from poverty to attain higher levels of formal schooling and earn degrees, meritocracy is a myth because for the vast majority of students, opportunities are lacking and the lack of them is systemic and embedded in oppression that is ongoing. Considering Latina women who do earn a college degree, they will still end up earning only 70 cents to a dollar of a white man. This puts Latina women who obtain a college education on par with white women who have no college degree. It may also put them in debt and without the support necessary to secure a well paying job. In addition when one perhaps does obtain a well paying job, sexual harassment in the workplace is very real as well as the lack of opportunities for advancement or promotion. Women being seen in stereotypical ways is also shaped by class and race. Women of Color are disproportionally impacted as our stories and struggles are often not seen or heard in mainstream until they become a part or side in larger dialogues regarding women’s rights. This has to change.
There are other “theories” as to why a pay gap persists including the fact that women are likely to be tending to children or the home or other family members. Ultimately breaks from work impacts their earnings. 40 percent of mothers stated that they have taken significant time off work to care for family according to Pew Research. This not only speaks to a wage gap, but a gender equity issue and the ways in which we view women and their caring work as something that is not valued overall in this society. If women are at a disadvantage then wouldn’t it make sense to have universal child care? Many women can not return to work following having a child due to the high price tag of child care.
As I have wrote about my experiences being a mother who has been on welfare as well as a single mother and head of household, I can’t stress enough the importance for us to not only have a living wage, but we need universal healthcare and universal childcare. Having these necessities would be in the best interest of a healthy society, but there are systemic reasons that have to do with racism and sexism and a overarching system that decides who are the workers that will be the most exploited in society. It is by design of an unjust and unequal economic system that Latinas are the lowest paid workers and we can not forget that as we put up hashtags and post about equal pay trends for a day.
So as we demand equal pay, let us also demand that those among us with the least, have basics for themselves and their families to live and thrive because it is equal pay, but also tied to equal pay is opportunity for all of us to have basic rights to live healthy and happy. That is something that shouldn’t just be reserved for those of a certain racial group or economic backgrounds or educational levels, but especially to women who work today in the fields harvesting, women who clean houses, women who work two-three jobs just to make ends meet because ultimately we all deserve dignity and respect.