Employment and Labor


Racial inequity in the economic sphere is persistent and widespread. People of color on average still have higher unemployment rates and lower wealth and incomes than white people on average, even controlling for educational status and job qualifications. The recent recession and slow recovery has lowered effective wage rates in ways particularly devastating for people with little or no inherited cushion of wealth or access to family economic support. It has thus exacerbated the accumulated advantages of some racial/ethnic groups and the accumulated disadvantages of others. The recent recession and slow recovery has also shown the success of “divide and conquer” strategies that pit workers from different groups (including racial/ethnic groups) against each other. For example, it has become perfectly acceptable for public officials to use terms like “jobless recovery,” which suggests that the country no longer assumes as a matter of course that a recovery means most people are back at work in living wage jobs. In addition, people complain when public sector employees want to hold on to their pensions (rather than organizing to ensure pensions for all workers). Worker rights and wages have been eroding in the U.S. for some time, and there has been increased legislation in some states to eliminate labor unions. Though the U. S. Labor movement has its own racist history, the current attacks on trade unions, in which Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be union members, functions as another “divide and conquer” strategy that eliminates a working class network advocating for decent wages and benefits. Thus, there is racial equity work to do on the issue of employment at every level – structural, cultural, institutional and individual.    



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