Latina Equal Pay Day and the Power of Unions

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Latina Equal Pay Day is not only a day to draw attention to wage disparity between Latinas and their non-Hispanic white male counterparts at large, but also to think about how to level the playing field for the Latinas earning the least.

It is Latina Equal Pay Day 2018—where Latinas continue to increasingly fuel the engine that is the American economy, and yet, are still underpaid at 53 cents to the white non-Hispanic man’s dollar, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for the Latinx population in the American economy.

Let’s start with the basics: more than 28 million Latinas represent the next group rising in consumer influence, per a Nielsen study. Marketers have begun shifting their attention accordingly. And the Latina community itself is also executing on its own power. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of Latina-owned businesses grew an immense 87%, from 800,000 to 1.5 million firms, per Geoscape.

That’s the come up. But while Latinx and minorities overall lead the way in small business creation in the U.S. economy, there are a few symptoms that show the capital gap is still very wide. Per the Stanford Graduate School of Business, scaled firms represent only 2-3% of the Latinx-owned firm ecosystem. For as much as the Latinx group is growing, Latinas still are underrepresented in C-level positions and board seats. Meanwhile, they are are overrepresented in low-wage jobs.

With these kind of stats, Latina Equal Pay Day is not only a day to draw attention to wage disparity between Latinas and their non-Hispanic white male counterparts at large, but also to think about how to level the playing field for the Latinas earning the least: Those who are working in the hospitality, housekeeping, health aids, agriculture industry and beyond.

This is also where the involvement of a union could greatly help the cause. Because worker unions focus on raising and maintaining standards across the board, all workers, Latinas included, stand to benefit. Organizers have a significant role in the equation. Not only do they work to secure higher wages for workers but also other benefits that aid financial stability such as pension, job security and affordable healthcare.

Take Maria del Rosario Martinez, a union organizer for Unite HERE Local 1. The union she works for represents more than 15,000 hospitality workers across Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Unions hold the power of “collective bargaining,” she explained.

“We have a standard, no matter what,” she said. “That does not change from person to person.”

Most recently, the union led a strike across 26 Chicago hotels -- an action that generated regional media attention. The hotels went without housekeepers, doormen, cooks and attendants. This strike demanded year-round health insurance, among other benefits. A month after the walkout began, an article in Crain’s Chicago Business reported that of the initial 26 only two hotels remained on strike. Other hotels have ratified contracts with workers represented by the union.

But this kind of success is not always replicable, especially in non-union places where del Rosario Martinez has organized.

“A housekeeper could be making $11, in our union they make more than $20,” she said, but having a strong union standard for pay and benefits in a city can certainly put pressure on non-union employers to compete.

That’s needed pressure as Latin earnings decreased in the last year, though they forge ahead in consumer power and small business creation.

Written by Lyanne Alfaro

Illustration by @SmugMorenita


About the Writer:

Lyanne Alfaro tells stories about what’s next in the world of technology, business and entrepreneurship. With more than $1.4 trillion in spending power, she's especially passionate about exploring the Latino influence in the world of business. She talks all about it in a weekly newsletter all about it called Moneda Moves.

Currently, she is a multimedia business journalist working in New York City working as a host and producer at Nasdaq. Her pieces have appeared in CNBC, Business Insider, NBC Latino and Yahoo Finance. She also specializes in news coverage via social media. At CNBC, her team’s social coverage earned a Best in Business Award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.