COVID-19 and Hispanic Essential Workers
with Amy L. Hinojosa of MANA, a National Latina Organization
Hispanic Americans, who represent a significant portion of the nation’s essential workers, have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amy L. Hinojosa, President and CEO of MANA, a National Latina Organization, shares how the Hispanic community can come overcome challenges associated with life on the front lines of a pandemic.
Sep 14, 2020
Anderson: Essential workers, including janitors, maids, and retail and food service workers, have been keeping America going during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while these frontline workers need to be physically present at their places of employment, many are working in low-income jobs. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Latinas make up about 20% of the U.S. population, yet some say they're shouldering a disproportionate amount of the burden that we all feel from the pandemic. Joining me to add some context to this topic is Amy Hinojosa. She is the president and CEO of MANA. It's a national Latina organization. And, Amy, thank you so much for being here.
Hinojosa: Thank you for having me, Tetiana.
Anderson: So, Amy, I know one of the things that you've talked about is the idea that the coronavirus pandemic is creating sort of this perfect storm of trouble for Latinas. Unpack that for our viewers. What do you mean by that?
Hinojosa: We think that the Latina worker is America's essential worker, and the pandemic has really folded back the layers of that situation. Latina workers are basically the women who have been the essential workers when everything shut down in March. So, whether it's in food service, whether it is farm workers, whether it is janitorial, cleaning, secretarial, we know that these are the folks who continue to go to work. Meanwhile, they still have multigenerational families at home. They have kids who need to go to school or need to figure out how to school from home. And on top of that, we're still the least paid of pretty much any demographic, still making only 54 cents on the dollar.
Anderson: So, beyond their livelihood and what they do for work, which, of course, helps keep everyone going, talk to us a little bit about why what happens to this essential group of workers really impacts all of us.
Hinojosa: We're all impacted when only a select group of workers are still in the workforce, are being exposed every day. They're making our food. They're picking the food in the field so that we can have fresh meals. And so, when they're exposed, we're exposed.
Anderson: There is another issue that's at play here, and it's not just the pandemic itself, but it's the fallout from that. And so, we know that the pandemic has really exacerbated for Latinas and Latinos the whole issue of the digital divide. But explain why this segment of the population that you're focused on is experiencing an even heavier burden when it comes to that.
Hinojosa: We still have a majority of Latino families in the United States that don't have access to a computer or a tablet in their home, let alone connection to the Internet. And so, imagine, if you will, a family with a young student relying on a cellphone and a Wi-Fi connection in a fast-food parking lot to do their homework or their school lessons. It's just not manageable, and it's not conducive to a good learning environment.
Anderson: So, whether it's the digital divide, whether it's the issue of the weight of being an essential worker, how is MANA relieving some of these issues? And what are you seeing that's actually working within the communities that you're in?
Hinojosa: MANA is, at its core, a group of women who see need and find a way to help. And so, our women across the country have mobilized, whether it is helping their school districts identify the students that need Wi-Fi access, the students that need laptops or tablets, and making sure that they get them. Whether it's making sure that local partners, domestic violence shelters have protective equipment and cleaning supplies so that they can continue to serve the community, where our women see need, they step in.
Anderson: So, you are busy helping this community of women, but what do you need from the larger society to facilitate what you're doing?
Hinojosa: So, if you're the average person at home and you're wondering why you should care about the Latino community in this circumstance, these are the folks who are serving your food. There are some 900,000 female farm workers in the fields right now who are cutting and picking the fresh fruits and vegetables that are on your plate. So when they're exposed, you're exposed. And so it creates a dangerous environment that we're just not compensating for right now because of the lack of a federal response.
Anderson: So, Amy, if people want to find out more about what MANA does, where can they go?
Hinojosa: We would love for everyone to visit us at hermana.org.
Anderson: Amy Hinojosa, thank you so much for joining us.
Hinojosa: Thank you, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, be sure to visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.