Workers of color, are often concentrated at the low end of the wage spectrum—jobs which often benefit the most from the protection of unions.
Photo: Courtesy American Progress
By Folayemi Agbede
low-income-earning positions with little to no benefits. In this context, the success of unions in boosting socioeconomic mobility becomes inarguably apparent.
Without union leadership and protection, many people of color—with particular historical emphasis on African Americans—would not have accessed the middle class.  Black workers fought hotly contested, deadly fights for access to unions in order to secure basic protections and economic equity. The successful unionization of integrated workplaces over the last 140 years not only increased the wages of African Americans—who were otherwise making nickels to white workers dollars—but it also raised the overall floor for antidiscriminatory labor standards in hiring and benefit distribution. African-American workers collectively leveraged their arduous labor in exchange for safer conditions and better compensation by forming and joining unions— gaining standard protections historically denied to American workers descended of America's enslaved.
What gains African Americans have made through union protection and collective bargaining aren't as accessible for other groups because of diminishing unionization. On one hand, many Latinos, who have been in the United States for generations, have been able to leverage the same gains as their African-American counterparts by joining unionized workforces. On the other, as established and newer Latino communities continue to grow in the United States, many of the 23 million Latinos presently in the workforce stand a different, lower chance for middle-class means than they did in the past.
For new Americans, such as recent Latino immigrants and their first-generation American children, the concurrent decrease in unionization rates, the rise in Latino workforce growth, and Hispanic over-representation in low-wage work spells peril. The hard-fought access to unions that improved the economic standing for African-American workers could afford the same opportunities to immigrants and their children. In the absence of unions' protective force, however, transient workers searching for immediately available work
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