As we approach Labor Day, the AFL-CIO has released a new report, The Elusive American Dream: Lower Wages, High Unemployment and an Uncertain Retirement for Latinos. The report compiles economic data from recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) studies that show Latinos face higher unemployment and underemployment rates, are paid lower wages and have less financial security as seniors.
“Latino workers have been especially hard hit by the economic crisis. It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Kelly Ross, deputy director for policy at the AFL-CIO. “Low wages and economic inequality are the result of deliberate policy decisions that can and must be changed. Increasing wages and reducing inequality is not only a matter of fairness and justice, it is also urgently necessary if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy.”
Among the key findings in the report:
- The unemployment rate for Latinos is 9.8%, compared to 6.3% for whites and 14.0% for African Americans.
- Nearly 19% of Latino workers and more than 22% of African American workers are underemployed.
- Wages for Latino workers have barely increased in the past decade, and they still lag behind other ethnic groups.
- More than 70% of Latinos and African Americans older than 65 are economically vulnerable and are at risk of falling into poverty, compared to just under 44% of whites.
“This report confirms the unfortunate reality that many Latino workers are struggling to provide even the most basic needs to their families,” says Ana Avendaño, AFL-CIO assistant to the president and director of immigration and community action. “This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation. Let’s honor Labor Day by advocating for policies that will allow them to reach the American Dream.”
The report then goes on to discuss a number of solutions that would help alleviate the ethnic disparities and help working families across the board. Some of the proposals:
- Pursuing expansionary fiscal policies such as job creation programs.
- Increasing the minimum wage to more than $10 and increasing the minimum wage for tipped workers.
- Fighting wage theft.
- Supporting the rights of workers to organize unions.
- Creating community workforce agreements that hire local workers and include project labor agreements that maintain high job quality.
- Re-establishing state and local public services that were cut during the Great Recession.
- Pursuing a immigration policy that protects workers and includes a road map to citizenship.
Read the full report.