“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.”
Civil rights activist
As we reach the end of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), it is critical that we recognize the courageous work and leadership of Latina women, and also address how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted women in the Hispanic community. Latina women comprise a large percentage of the frontline workforce doing jobs deemed “essential” amidst the pandemic, yet they also face higher rates of COVID-related infections, hospitalizations, and deaths than the general population, are five times more likely to be exposed to COVID-19, and account for nearly 50% of cases among pregnant women.
These increased susceptibilities to COVID-19 are linked to appalling inequities in economic status. The pandemic has led to high rates of unemployment among Latina women, with the rate jumping from 5.5% to 20.5% between February and April 2020 alone. In one out of five Hispanic households, at least one of its members has lost her or his job, with an alarming unemployment rate of 14.5% reported among the Hispanic community in June.
Meanwhile, many other Latina women continue to perform essential yet underpaid work on the frontlines, often without sufficient health coverage. Many of these high-risk positions are also the lowest paid jobs in the country. For example, nearly 20% of care workers live in poverty, despite providing critical care to children, the elderly, and those with disabilities. Those that care for others should not be left unable to provide for themselves.
This pandemic could also prove economically devastating for Latina women for months and years to come. Women generally face greater barriers than men in returning to work after a recession, and these trends are likely to heighten existing inequalities including pay disparities. Latinas earn a mere 54 cents for every dollar earned by a white non-Hispanic man—the largest deficit within the gender pay gap.
Now, more than ever, we must create a society that values all workers and brings Hispanic women leaders to the decision-making table. In the words of acclaimed labor organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, “We do need women in civic life. We do need women to run for office, to be in political office. We need a feminist to be at the table when decisions are being made so that the right decisions will be made.”
To this end, legislative protections should support all women workers and their families negatively impacted by this crisis, regardless of ethnicity or immigration status. Urge your representatives to push for protections for all:
- Ensure Hazard Pay and Paid Leave: Essential workers should receive premium pay for all hours worked during the crisis as compensation for the risks they are taking. Additionally, essential workers are expected to work without realistic childcare options and/or access to paid leave and sick time. Women workers that fill essential functions should also have access to the essential resources they and their families need to weather this pandemic.
- Expand Relief to All Workers, Regardless of Immigration Status: People with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) should be eligible for federal relief programs. In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), only those using Social Security numbers (SSNs) received funding, even though many people file tax returns with a spouse or child with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), causing the entire household to be denied funding and barring immigrant workers from crucial cash assistance.
- Fund Excluded Workers: Moreover, workers who do indispensable work across our country but lack eligible immigration status or work authorization do not qualify for unemployment benefits. Under federal law, workers must have valid work authorization at the time they apply for benefits and throughout the period during which they are receiving benefits. Too many immigrant workers are left with no safety net as this pandemic persists. Where existing programs cannot be expanded, it is imperative that we create funds to support immigrant communities to ensure they are not shut out of state and federal aid programs.
We encourage you to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with us by supporting the Hispanic community through our advocacy for workplace equality, economic empowerment, and reducing gender and racial disparities.
Praised by national women leaders. The SYMS | Legal Momentum Helpline remains available at NO COST to provide legal information and referrals on issues related to sex discrimination in the workplace, home, school and the courts.
Be part of the solution. Please share. In this challenging time, our legal team developed a no-cost guide to Legal Rights and Economic Resources for Workers Impacted by COVID-19, also available in Spanish and Chinese.
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Legal Momentum Legal Team