Today, October 29, 2020, is Latina Equal Pay Day. This date marks the day when Latinas will have finally earned the same amount of money that a white man would have earned last year. Because a Latina woman earns just 54.5 cents on every dollar a white man earns, it takes a Latina woman 671 days to earn what a white man earns in 365. Today, we consider the harsh reality that Latinas’ work has been undervalued and underpaid and commit to changing the system that perpetuates such inequities.
While Women’s Equal Pay Day may have been in March, not all women experience pay inequality in the same way. Equal Pay Day for all women in the United States compared to all men in the United States was on March 31, 2020. Because women, on average, make 82 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make, it took women 456 days to make the same amount of money that men made in the 365 days in 2019. While Asian women as a group appear to be doing better than other women (earning 90 cents on the dollar and with an Equal Pay Day on February 11), it is critical to disaggregated that statistic: Vietnamese women earn 64 cents, Hmong women earn 57 cents, and Burmese women earn only 50 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make. Black women earn only 62 cents per dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, and so their Equal Pay Day was August 13. Native Women, who earn 57 cents on the dollar, had their Equal Pay Day on October 1. As a group, Latinas earn the least among all women in America at 54 cents on the dollar, and thus they have the last Equal Pay Day of the year.
Over a 40-year career, Latinas are deprived of about $1.1 million in wages. Since 1988, the wage gap between Latina women and white, non-Hispanic men has closed by a paltry 4%. At the current rate, Latina women will not achieve equal pay until 2451. Latinas with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn less than white, non-Latino men with a high school diploma.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed another harsh reality of many Latina’s work. Rates of COVID-19 among Latinx populations are high due to the economic reality of their work in essential industries (such as farm work, domestic work and retail work), lack of access to healthcare, and discrimination. Workers who form the bedrock of our society are being paid the least while experiencing high rates of hospitalizations and fatalities from COVID-19.
There is no one solution to gender pay equality. Instead, systemic social change is needed on a variety of levels. Here are some places we can start.
According to a recent study, laws that prevent employers from asking applicants about their salary history help close racial and gender wage gaps. Barring new employers from asking about salary history helps break the cycle of underpayment by preventing new employers from aligning new salaries with previous (underpaying) ones and thus perpetuating the wage gap. While some states have started implementing these policies, and the Ninth Circuit held that employers may not use prior pay history to justify pay discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, companies should adopt a voluntary ban on asking about earning history.
Moreover, union membership can make an enormous difference in the wages Latinas receive. Unionized workers receive an average of $235 more per week, or 28% more than their non-union counterparts.
We can also help each other. Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is illegal for an employer to prevent you from sharing how much you make with your coworkers. Talk about the gender and race wage gaps with your coworkers, and stand together in demanding an equitable workplace for all.
Luke Sironski-White is second-year law student at Berkeley Law and a law clerk in Legal Aid at Work’s Gender Equity and LGBTQ Rights Program.