It should come as no surprise that many people in the United States still suffer from employment abuse. What is shocking, however, is that much of this abuse is concentrated within one class of people in the workforce. Latina working women are among the most vulnerable workers when it comes to abuse and harassment. Looking to shed light on the working lives of Latina women across the country, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement has authored a new report entitled Trabajadoras: Challenges and Conditions of Latina Workers in the United States.
The report details the disproportionate rate at which Latina workers suffer abuse in the workplace and specifies some of the unique conditions that make Latina women so vulnerable. The report lists several eye-opening statistics. For example, Latina women make sixty cents for every dollar that a white male makes while performing the same job. The report also points out that Latina women often endure dire circumstances like extreme poverty, lack of immigration documentation, and physical and sexual harassment. These factors form a cycle of abuse. Even after the passage of the National Labor Relations Act and the Civil Rights Act, employers are willing to pay them next to nothing for some of the most dangerous work in the country. Additionally, their supervisors can harass them without fearing legal consequences because these women live in fear. An employer can easily threaten them with deportation, physical violence, or even the loss of the job if these workers decide to speak up or organize.
As much as the report describes an oppressed class of people, it also describes the incredible assets that Latinas already possess, which can help them break the cycle of abuse. As the report explains, Latinas constitute 12.8 percent of all women in the country’s workforce. Additionally, the Latina population in the United States is a relatively young population and this is precisely where its power lies. First generation Latina immigrants are enduring constant abuse in the workplace, but their children are taking charge in the political and educational arenas. Many Latinas are now leading the advocacy fight for legislation like the DREAM Act, which would give a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who attend college or who serve in the military. Young Latinas like Daniela Peláez, a resident of Miami who has become an icon in the DREAM Act movement, have excelled in education and are looking to change the state of other Latinas around the country. They owe much to the sacrifice of Latinas that came before them, but they are not willing to endure the same abuse. Perhaps the biggest weapon that Latinas have at their disposal is their education. New generations of Latinas are well aware of their rights and are resourceful enough to protect them with the law.
Still, Latina women face an uphill battle while attempting to improve their workplace conditions. Perhaps the biggest obstacle that Latinas face in this battle is the ignorance they have about the legal protections. Many of them, especially the undocumented, believe that all legal recourse would end with their deportation. However, even if abused Latina workers were aware of laws like Title VII, legal remedies to their situations are still outside their reach because of the high costs of litigation. Ultimately, this report highlights the abuses Latina workers endure, as well as the strengths this population possesses.
You can access the report here.