An Oregon Christmas tree farm worker, photographed as part of the Pineros project.
In 100 different homes across Portland this winter, Christmas trees were adorned with unusual ornaments: instead of tiny Santas and candycanes, the evergreen branches were also graced with glass ornaments etched with the name of a farmworker who helped grow and harvest the tree.
Why is it that white men in America are paid more—on average—than women and people of color in every single state? We dig into the realities behind the wage gap with help from three all-stars. First Lilly Ledbetter explains how it feels to fight your employer for equal pay all the way to the Supreme Couty. Then, journalist Sarah L. Jaffe breaks down the myths of minimum wage. Finally, author Sheila Bapat explains the racist and sexist history behind our country's failure to pay domestic workers fairly. Tune in.
This show features the song "Workin' Woman Blues" by the fantastic Valerie June.
More ways to listen and a transcript of the show are below the cut.
As a child, Sheila Bapat watched her mom do all the housework. Abroad, visiting family in India, she saw her female relatives do the same. Over at her friends' houses, she observed their moms take care of all things domestic as well—politicizing Sheila from an early age to see the relationship between gender, justice, and domestic work. In her new book, Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers' Rights (Ig Publishing), Sheila has studied these relationships and the workers on the forefront of demanding justice.
The scene is familiar to any fancy home design magazine reader: the perfectly appointed living space full of gleaming surfaces, fluffed up pillows, artfully arranged flowers next to tasteful objets d’art. But painted in to this pristine domestic landscape is the woman who is actually responsible for the polishing and dusting and cleaning of the space—Edith, a brown-skinned woman waiting for her check.
This month, Jacobin launched a book series with Verso offering a socialist perspective on cultural, political, and economic issues, including Melissa Gira Grant’s new book on the sex work industry, Playing the Whore: the Work of Sex Work. Grant has written about sex and politics for such outlets as the Nation, the Guardian, $pread and as a contributing editor of Jacobin.
Black Friday is a good time to reflect on the need for better minimum wages.
Both Walmart and McDonalds have recently come under fire for practices that acknowledge their employees are struggling financially yet make no move to pay them a livable wage. This November, a Walmart in Ohio had bins that let employees donate food to other employees so they could eat on Thanksgiving. A McDonalds website that gives tips to its employees recommended that they sell holiday gifts to make quick cash, cut their food into smaller portions so they feel like they’ve eaten more, apply for food stamps, get a second job, and to "Stop complaining. Stress hormones rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining."
On television and in real life, home health aides are an underpaid, overworked, and invisible workforce. Like Elisa (Salma Hayek) on season three of 30 Rock, they feed, bathe, cook, and clean for the nation's elderly folks and people with disabilities in their homes. Yet these workers struggle to make ends meet; on average, they make less than $10 an hour. They receive no overtime pay, and their work can often be physically demanding. Moreover, home health aides work in private residences where their labor receives little oversight and where they lack a support network to help them advocate for better compensation. And these injustices to home health aides matter now more than ever because—guess what?—with a growing elderly population, it's the fastest growing occupation in the U.S.
So while Elisa's plight is played for laughs against Jack's one-percenter lifestyle, the sitcom offers a surprisingly frank glimpse of an undervalued workforce, one that's comprised overwhelmingly of women and women of color—and one that hides in plain sight in homes all across America.
"The average farmworker lived 49 years—compared to 70 years for the white majority in the United States. A migrant worker's baby was twice as likely to die as babies of other people. Farmworkers were three times as likely as other people to get tuberculosis, three times as likely to get hurt on the job, and were the lowest-paid workers in the country."
Jessie de la Cruz grew up in these conditions, and as one of the first female organizers of the United Farmworkers of America, devoted her life to make sure that others wouldn't have to.