Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, the fight for workers’ rights across many industries hasn’t lost a step. From pushing for fair wages for Black women in the restaurant industry to shining a spotlight on overlooked workers like those in poultry plants and sanitation, organizers and working people themselves are finding new ways to advocate. In case you missed it, here are a few of Prism’s latest workers’ rights stories.
(Terrill Haigler, as told to Tina Vasquez)
I have thought a lot about why people don’t always see us as human and I think it’s because people really don’t have to think about what happens to their trash. Literally for my whole life, you put the trash in the can, you take the trash to the curb, you go to work, you come back, and the trash is gone. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t think about the people that are driving around in a heat wave to get that trash or working during a monsoon that leaves them in wet clothes all day. You don’t have to think about the people dealing with oversized rodents in the bags. People just don’t think about that stuff.
(Fatima Goss Graves, Shannon Williams, and Angie Jean-Marie)
New research shows that nationwide, Black women who work on the dining floor of restaurants are paid on average $4.79 an hour less than their white male peers in the industry. But in New York, the pay gap is 60% worse—that difference is a staggering $7.95. The only state with a statistically significant Black population that has a substantially larger disparity than New York is Alabama. If New York is serious about standing on the right side of racial justice going forward, it must eliminate a key driver of this disparity—one that is a direct legacy of slavery: the subminimum wage for tipped workers.
On August 7, 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) swept through seven poultry processing plants across six rural towns in Mississippi, detaining nearly 700 undocumented immigrants, many of whom were parents. It was the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history, and it devastated the state’s immigrant communities. The effects of the raid are still being felt today, according to Lorena Quiroz-Lewis, and things have gotten worse because of the coronavirus.
Keep reading Prism for more workers’ rights coverage that centers the voices of workers on the front lines. See you back here next week.