By Carmen Rios
9 April 2020
The COVID-19 numbers have led to widespread alarm: 16 million workers have filed for unemployment, and 100,000 to 250,000 lives are at risk. “This is a public health crisis,” Senator Kamala Harris told viewers during a tele-town hall organized by nonprofit One Fair Wage on Tuesday, “that has resulted in an economic crisis.” For women workers, who make up a disproportionate number of the low-wage workers providing essential services during the novel coronavirus’s outbreak in the U.S., that crisis is both political and personal.
“The coronavirus catastrophe has exposed what has always been a devastating reality for millions of low-paid women workers across the country: Despite working hard and providing essential services that we depend on, they are paid rock-bottom wages that devalue the work they do and put them at high risk of living in or near poverty, even when they work full time,” Julie Vogtman, National Women’s Law Center director of job quality and lead author of the organization’s recent report, When Hard Work Is Not Enough: Women in Low-Paid Jobs, said in a statement. “As thousands of restaurant servers, hotel clerks, waitresses, and fast food workers are losing their jobs every day due to the pandemic, their economic security and that of their families have become even more tenuous. Let this be a wake-up call to policymakers to increase the federal minimum wage, expand paid sick and family and medical leave, strengthen unemployment benefits, and shrink the gender wage gap that shortchanges them.”
These recommendations echo the demands of groups like Justice for Migrant Women, which in March launched an Emergency Pandemic Fund for Farmworkers with Hispanics In Philanthropy to advocate for the 2 to 3 million farmworkers, an estimated 900,000 of whom are women, who continue to plant, pick, and pack the food we’re all rushing to pick up at stores or order to our doorsteps.
Read the full article on Women’s Media Center.