Report finds black workers overrepresented in low-wage jobs | Black Voices | Chicago News

This year, September 21 marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which means it takes nearly 21 months for black women to equal the pay of what white men earn in the 12 months of 2021.

In 2022, this day comes more than a month later than in 2021, because this gap has increased. Part of this gap can be attributed to the overrepresentation of black workers in low-wage job categories.

This month, the Shriver Center released a report based on interviews with low-wage workers in Illinois. He revealed that people like home health aides, rideshare workers and warehouse workers were struggling not only with low wages, but also with a lack of benefits, insufficient safety protections and a work security.

Audra Wilson of the Shriver Center said that when it comes to salaried workers, economic justice is about racial justice.

“Although workers of color have always been marginalized in low-paying, low-skilled jobs, the growth of the gig industry…has actually exacerbated this trend and this growth of gig work has led to widespread misclassification employees, many of whom would otherwise. entitled to significant benefits and protections as independent contractors and they are individuals who are entitled to almost no protections, Wilson said.

According to an analysis by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, black women make up 6% of employed workers, but 32% of caregivers are black, a position where the average annual salary is $23,000.

Women employed CEO Cherita Ellens said care roles such as home care aides were often relatively low paid.

“Generally what you’ll find is that black women are segregated…in roles where the pay is low and often in roles where they only earn less than minimum tip pay. And so it will be direct care services, service oriented jobs such as food service, other health care support jobs such as CMS, nursing aides,” Ellens said. “Also in childcare… teaching assistant roles where the pay gap is quite high, and others in retail and other support services. And what’s unique is that even though they’re in positions where you need a degree, even in those positions, they’re still underpaid.

In his report,The Future of Work for Low-Wage Workers,” the Shriver Center outlines policy recommendations, including portable benefits for low-wage workers.

“For many employers, it’s more expedient to be able to rely on gig workers so they don’t have to pay benefits,” Wilson said. “That’s why we’re advocating for these kinds of protections because we recognize that this industry is proliferating that ultimately it will cause even more harm to this population of workers. Interestingly, for employers trying to avoid to pay benefits is extraordinarily myopic, because once that happens you have a high turnover rate.When you don’t provide benefits, you have people who can’t get sick days anymore, which was very important during the pandemic.

Ellens said one of the ways wage gaps are currently being addressed locally is to increase unionization.

“We know that workers who are part of a union are paid more, we know that women who have the benefit of being represented by a union see an even bigger difference than most,” Ellens said. “In Illinois, union membership raises hourly wages by 14.7 percent. And for black women who are in a union, they earn 23% more than black women who are not in a union. So it’s one of those things that we know we have to keep protecting and defending. »

Earlier this week, Chicago announced that its guaranteed income pilot project was fully enrolled; Cook County is gearing up to launch its own pilot soon. Wilson said if these pilots are successful, they could provide a blueprint for other cities to help workers like the one the Shriver Center report surveyed.

“We’re the second-most populous county in the nation’s third-largest city to launch pilots simultaneously,” Wilson said. “The country is actually going to be watching to see the impact of this program and we know it’s going to have tremendous benefits in the Chicago pilot alone.”


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