As Senior Policy Advisor to the Make it Work Campaign, I am always interested in new policy recommendations from partners and allies around the country. I found the newly released policy agenda from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) particularly compelling – especially the policy ideas that overlap with Make it Work’s agenda. One statistic that particularly stood out to me was that six in 10 Latino workers have children under the age of 18, compared to four in 10 white or Black workers. Why? Because it means America’s lack of family-forward policies hits Latino workers especially hard.
With so many Latino parents in the workforce, it’s not surprising that the NHLA policy agenda – released last week – has so much overlap with our agenda. (In case you aren’t familiar with us, we’re a community of people who believe that hardworking individuals shouldn’t have to choose between being there for family and earning a living. Click the About Us tab above for more info!) NHLA is a coalition of 40 prominent national Latino organizations. Their policy agenda lays out a set of solutions that would improve the lives of the nearly 58 million Latinos living in the United States. And a key piece of it focuses on policies that would make life easier for working Latino parents.
If we say that we value children, then it’s time to bring quality child care within reach for all parents. That’s a no brainer. Yet, the current solutions that are supposed to ensure kids have a safe, nurturing, educational place to go while their parents work are grossly inadequate – particularly for Latino families. The Child Care Development Block Grant – the major child care subsidy program in the U.S. for low-income families – serves only 8 percent of eligible Latino children. Think about it: that means 92 percent of eligible Latino kids aren’t getting the help they need to get quality care.
At the same time, child care providers are 96 percent women and 22 percent Latina, and their weekly median earnings are $444/week. That’s just over $20,000/year. With the outrageous cost of child care today, this means one thing: child care providers often can’t afford care or other necessities for their own children.
This is why the NHLA agenda is spot on when it calls for the “promotion of child care and other policies that allow young parents and families to thrive, especially mothers,” as well as universal preschool and expanding Head Start. At Make it Work, our bold proposal to make child care affordable for more families while also guaranteeing higher wages for the people who care of our kids would make a big difference for Latinos families.
PAID FAMILY LEAVE & PAID SICK DAYS
I probably don’t have to tell you how excited I was to see NHLA call for paid family leave and paid sick days, too. These two solutions are critical for the health and wellbeing of all workers (they’re central tenets of Make It Work’s agenda), and would go a long way toward helping Latino parents make it work.
I recently read that Hispanic workers are much less likely to have paid sick days than other workers. Only 46% of Hispanic workers have paid sick days, compared to 60% of working people overall. It’s true for paid family leave as well. Only 43% of Hispanics have access, compared to 61% of other workers. What does that mean for Latino parents? That they’re being forced to make impossible choices. For example, when a sick child needs to go to the doctor, a Latino parent without paid sick days has to decide whether to risk a paycheck, or worse, their job. When a Latino family welcomes a new baby, both dads and moms are more likely not to have time to care for, and bond with, their child.
Wrap your head around this: Latina women are paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white man. Put another way, a Latina woman and a white man could work the same job, and he could retire 33 years before she does and still make the same amount over their careers. Coupled with the disproportionate number of Latinos in the low-wage workforce, Latino families are falling behind and need a fair shot to get ahead.
That’s why the NHLA agenda, like the Make it Work Agenda, calls for equal pay for equal work and a higher minimum wage, and eliminates the separate, sub-minimum wage for those who work in restaurants and the service industry. America is a nation founded on the ideal that all of us are created equal and that ought to hold true at home and at work. Paying people fairly for the work they do shouldn’t depend on their gender, race or ethnicity. And working full-time should not leave families in poverty.
The NHLA agenda would truly help Latino families make it work. But these are not just Latino priorities – they are priorities for all of us. As NHLA Chair Hector Sanchez writes, “Latino priorities are, by definition, the priorities of the United States as a whole, and our success is inextricably intertwined.” Indeed.
Julie Kashen is Make It Work’s Senior Policy Advisor. She makes it work in partnership with her husband and family, her Google spreadsheet of backup child care providers, great books, and chocolate.