Although there are a great many laws in place in the US that are designed to protect the rights of individuals in the workplace in regards to protection from sexual harassment and verbal and physical abuse from coworkers and supervisors for Latina workers in the US that is not always protection enough.
According to the Labor Council of Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) Latina workers – also known as Trabajadoras, make up the fastest growing sector of the US workforce. They estimate that there are over 8 million Trabajadoras working in the US, most legally, some without proper documentation, making up 12.8% of the national workforce. They are sadly, often the worst paid members of that workforce though, making on average 60 cents for every dollar that is earned by a white man. They are also often the victims of unfair labor practices, including the non payment of wages owed.
One of the biggest problems for Trabajadoras in the workplace however is sexual harassment and sexual and physical violence at the hands of coworkers and supervisors. According to US government figures half of the Latina women who died in the workplace in 2010 were the victims of physical and/or sexual assaults.
Latinas working in the food and agriculture industries in the US tend to be at the highest risk for workplace abuse. In 2011 one third of the sexual harassment claims filed by Latina women came from workers in the restaurant industry, where they represent 22% of the workforce. And in the world of agriculture according to a survey undertaken by the Southern Poverty Law Center 77% of the Latinas working in the industry in the South reported that sexual harassment was a “major problem” they faced in their every day working lives.
Many women, even those who do have all of the correct documentation to live and work in the US legally are often threatened by employers that if they speak up about abuse that the employer will contact the immigration authorities to have their victim deported. Often this would not be the case at all but many Latina workers are not always clear about the real laws that govern their status as an immigrant and abusive employers are very good at making the threats sound very real and plausible.
The LCLAA are trying to remedy the situation in some way though. They have undertaken a campaign to educate, inform and assist Latinas in the workplace about their rights and the resources that are available to them if those rights are violated. More can be learned about this campaign by visiting the Trabajadoras Campaign’s official website.