Nearly 100 organizations across the U.S. are taking action today to raise awareness about the gender wage gap facing Latina workers. The most recent data reflects that Latina workers are being paid an average of 54 cents to the dollar paid to white male, non-Hispanic workers. This means that it takes Latinas 22 months to make the equivalent earnings that a white, non-Hispanic male worker is paid in just 12 months.
It is estimated that Latinas comprise nearly twice as many female workers than in 1994, increasing from 7.9 percent to 14.7 percent. Despite the fact that Latinas represent a growing percentage of the labor force, they are not necessarily more financially secure. In addition to equal pay violations, Latinas face wage theft, discriminatory job placement, failure to promote and train, job segregation and wide-spread sexual harassment. The situation is reported to be even more dismal for Latinas who are immigrants, indigenous Latinas, and Afro-Latinas.
The Latina gender wage gap has a detrimental impact on the Latina worker and her family. Thus, equal pay for Latinas is not “just” a Latina worker issue. It is a family, a children’s, women’s rights, labor and workers’ rights issue that has consequences for our entire nation. When a Latina can not afford to put food on her table, a roof over head, save for her future or pay for her education or that of her children, this has a devastating impact for her and our country.
We cannot view pay discrimination in isolation. This injustice is part of a larger picture of inequality, where the many facets of our lives- our sex, race, documentation status, level of education, and relationship status, among other factors, are used against us in an attempt to keep us from maximizing our potential.
Latina workers and advocates, like me, have been organizing for change for years. While it is true that Latinas are being undervalued, cheated and sometimes discriminated against in multiple ways at work, we are also powerful. We are taking measures to hold wrong doers accountable and determine our own future.
There are amazing trailblazers who many of us have grown up admiring and who have inspired our own activism, like Dolores Huerta. She has dedicated her life’s work to ensuring that Latina workers are not only counted as workers but also valued as human beings. In addition, other Latina labor leaders, like Aida Garcia, Dora Cervantes, Esther Lopez, Maricruz Manzanarez, Yanira Merino, Evelyn DeJesus, Maria Elena Durazo and many others, have been on the front lines organizing Latinas and other workers to stand up for fair wages and just conditions at work. There are workers, like an agricultural packing plant worker named Laura, and Araclis, a shop steward at a hotel in New Jersey, who have bravely spoken out against gender discrimination and have stood up to assert their rights.
In addition, there are thousands of women who are leading campaigns, like our sisters at Restaurant Opportunity Coalition (ROC) who are mobilized for “One Fair Wage” and our hermanas at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) who have made significant advancements to increase protections for domestic workers at the state and federal levels.
Despite the odds, we are rising. We are rising up to speak out and stand up against unequal pay and all forms of oppression committed against our sisters, our brothers and ourselves. We are grateful to the multitudes of organizations and individuals who stand with us today and every day. The future of our nation depends on the ability for all of us to be paid what we are worth so that we can succeed and thrive.
Find more information about ways that you can stand with Latina workers at www.latinaequalpay.org
Mónica Ramírez is a nationally recognized expert with more than two decades of experience on the eradication of gender-based violence and the promotion of gender equity on behalf of Latinas, farmworker and immigrant women. She is the Director of Gender Equity and Advocacy for the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 preeminent Latino organizations in the United States. In addition to her role at NHLA, she joined forces with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) as its Director of Gender Equality and Trabajadoras’ Empowerment to help further LCLAA’s work on the Trabajadoras (Latina workers) campaign.