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Overrepresentation in low-wage jobs and high rates of poverty mean Latinos have a greater need for paid sick leave
More than 450,000 Latino workers in New York City are unable to take even one paid day off when they or a family member becomes ill. In fact, of all the city’s ethnic and racial groups, Latinos are the least likely to have access to paid time off, in part because they are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs that provide few, if any, basic benefits.
These are among the findings of a new report by the Community Service Society (CSS) that examines the impact the lack of paid sick days is having on New York City’s Latino community, and what it means for their health, the financial security of their families and the health of the wider public. According to the report, “Latino New Yorkers Can’t Afford to Get Sick,” the widespread lack of access to paid sick days for Latinos can be attributed to three factors: their concentration in low-wage jobs; overrepresentation in certain industries with weak labor standards, including non-union construction and food services; and, the higher proportion of foreign-born workers among this population.
“For a vast majority of the city’s low-income Latino workers, getting sick invariably means being forced to choose between the health concerns of themselves or their children, and holding onto their jobs,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “There is no justification for denying workers this most basic protection while helping to create more stable healthy workplaces. It’s time to pass the Paid Sick Time Act.”
On Thursday, March 22, the City Council will hold a hearing on an amended version of the paid sick leave bill, which was first introduced in 2009. The bill calls for workers to earn five paid sick days a year. Workers in ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses employing fewer than five employees would not receive paid sick time, but they could not be fired for being sick up to five days a year.
Although passage of a paid sick leave bill would benefit all New Yorkers, it is the Latino community that is bearing a disproportionate brunt of the city’s inaction on this issue. Drawing on research from the Community Service Society’s annual Unheard Third survey of low-income New Yorkers, public health studies and the stories of Latino workers themselves who have lost wages, and in some cases their jobs, the report highlights the following key findings:
- Forty-seven percent of Latino workers in New York City lack paid sick days, the highest share of any racial or ethnic group. Nearly two-thirds of low-income Latinos do not have access to paid sick days. Latinos are overrepresented in low-wage occupations that provide few, if any benefits, such as food services, non-union construction, and retail trade.
- Fifty-six percent of Latinos live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, including 31 percent of full-time working Latinos. By comparison, only 7 percent of white full-time workers are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
- Due to their lack of paid sick days, Latinos are the most likely group to go to work ill, send sick children to school, and visit emergency rooms because they can’t see a doctor during normal business hours. Over half of low-income Latino workers without paid sick days reported going to work sick frequently or sometimes because they were worried about losing their pay or their job.
- Latinos have the greatest health needs of all New Yorkers. Latinos have the highest rates of asthma and diabetes, and are far more likely than any other group to report their health as being only fair or poor.
- The Bronx, home to nearly one-third of the city’s Latino population, and where over half of the population is Latino, ranks dead last in health outcomes out of the 62 New York State counties, according to the County Health Rankings.
- In addition to the 38 out of 51 City Council members who support paid sick days, 84 percent of Latinos support the paid sick days proposal, including nearly 7 out of 10 who favor it strongly.
The cities of San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle and Portland, Oregon have already enacted paid sick day laws. Last year Connecticut became the first state to pass a paid sick days law. Research on the impact of San Francisco’s paid sick time requirement -- which is more wide-reaching in scope than the law proposed for New York City – found no evidence that the law had been detrimental to business.
The Unheard Third 2012 was conducted by the national polling firm Lake Research Partners for CSS, from July 8 to July 25, 2012. It surveyed 1,468 New York City residents (including 441 Latino residents) age 18 and older and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. It is the only annual survey of low-income opinion in the nation. The poll is partially-funded through the support of The New York Community Trust. CSS has used the survey to inform and guide its research, direct service programs and policy recommendations. It has served to narrow the focus of the agency’s agenda on the working poor and reinforce its belief that public policy aimed at this population must, in part, be guided by the life experiences and ideas of New Yorkers living in poverty.