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Dangers Experienced by Hispanic Workers Employed in Low-Skilled Labor Market

First Posted: Sep 29, 2015 02:32 PM EDT

Although Hispanics make up a large chunk of the U.S. workforce, many are employed in industries that don't provide prosperous economic futures. Instead, many are employed in the service industry and other industries that force Latinos to work under deplorable conditions.

Government agencies, organized labor groups and human rights organizations have documented the hazards of being a Hispanic worker in the U.S. However, not only is abuse and injury likelier for U.S. Latinos in the workplace, but death is also more likely for the population. Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) published a study on September 21st, which explores the experiences of U.S. Hispanic workers employed in the low-skilled labor market.  

Alongside the fact that Latinos are overwhelmingly employed in precarious positions, they earn the lowest wages in the nation. Also according to BLS, they earned $578 per week in 2013, which is significantly less than unionized Latinos ($838 per week), blacks ($629 per week) and whites ($978 per week).

Furthermore, U.S. Latinos are frequently robbed of their earnings through numerous forms of wage theft. They're often denied minimum wage, denied overtime and starved of rights owed to them, particularly when undocumented Hispanics are concerned. Nearly one-fourth (23.5 percent) of all Latino families live below the poverty line, and 77.6 percent of Latinos employed in various minimum wage industries reported that they did not receive overtime pay. Again, violations are more uncommon among Latino immigrants.

Approximately 77 percent of Latinas in the southern part of the nation say that sexual assault is a major issue at their work. Frequently employed in industries with higher rates of sexual harassment, such as hotels and restaurants, Latinas are far more likely to face the threat of sexual abuse and/or violation.

The service industry employs close to 3 million Latinas, and within this industry Latinas are also more likely to experience minimum wage violations. Additionally, Hispanic men are more likely to be employed in accident-heavy industries, which could result in their bodily harm. Likewise, Hispanic children are allowed to work with dangerous chemicals, heavy machinery and sharp tools. And they're four times more likely to die than other young workers.

Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) published a study, which found that despite declines in workplace deaths for most groups, Latinos continue to outnumber others when it comes to workplace deaths. There are higher incidences of work injuries among Hispanics because they are overrepresented in hazardous industries, such as transportation, mining, manufacturing, forestry, agriculture and construction.

Between 1995 to 12 percent in 2012, the portion of Hispanics who fell victim to workplace injury, death or illness increased from 9 percent to 12 percent. According to the LCLAA report, 797 Latinos died at their workplace in 2013, which is the highest death toll for Latinos since 2008. That number was higher for Latinos than any other group. Of those 797 Latinos who died at work, 527 were immigrants. Nonetheless, workplace illness and injury have decreased as work conditions have, albeit slowly, has begun to improve for Hispanics.

A lifetime of lower earners and subjection to hazardous working environments has a later life impact on Latinos who overwhelmingly fail to own assets during their retirement (69.2 percent). 

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