Beauty Store Business

SEP 2015

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Marc Birenbaum Executive Editor 4 September 2015 | Editor's Note "Racial inequities in employment are present in retail, but these norms do not have to continue." On Black & Latino Retail Workers "THE RETAIL RACE DIVIDE: HOW THE Retail Industry Is Perpetuating Racial Inequality In The 21 st Century" is a new report—available free online—issued by public-policy organization Demos (demos. org) and civil-rights organization NAACP ( It finds that retail employers pay black and Latino full-time workers just 75% of the wages of their white peers— amounting to losses up to $7,500 per year. In it, Catherine Ruetschlin, Demos senior policy analyst, and Dedrick Asante- Muhammad, senior director of the NAACP Economic Department and executive director of the NAACP Financial Freedom Center, analyze retail workers' occupations, earnings and schedules. They show that black and Latino workers are overrepre- sented in the positions with the lowest pay and the least stability, and are more likely to be among the working poor than their white colleagues. U.S. labor-market norms have con- sistently excluded people of color from accessing "foundations of opportunity" such as living wage employment oppor- tunities, benefits such as health care and investments into retirement, and workplace practices, says Asante-Muhammad. Other key report findings include: • Black retail workers share the attributes of the overall retail workforce, but face worse outcomes: Seventeen percent of black and 13% of Latino workers live below the poverty line—compared to 9% of the overall retail workforce. • Black and Latino retail workers are underrepresented in supervisory posi- tions such as managers or first-line supervisors. Black workers make up 11% of the labor force, but just 6% of managers. Conversely, black and Latino retail-sales workers are overrepre- sented in cashier positions—typically the lowest-paid positions in retail. • Involuntary part-time workers are a large share of the black and Latino retail workforce. More than 40% of black and Latino part-time retail workers would like full-time work—compared to 29% of white part-time employees. Also, the report dispels the myth that retail workers are primarily young people without families. More than 90% of black and Latino retail workers are older than 20-years-old, and half provide at least 50% of their household's income (and about a quarter are the sole earners). The co-authors offer solutions for retailers to reduce racial inequities by improving employment conditions for all industry workers: Policies that protect workers' rights and amplify their voices on the job can address some of the worst employment practices; and raising the federal minimum wage will provide decent living standards for hardworking retail employees and their families while reducing the racial-wage divide. Ruetschlin adds, "The striking persistence of racial inequities in employment is present in the retail industry and beyond, but these norms do not have to continue. Moving forward requires real commitment on the part of employers to ending discriminatory practices, expanding opportunities, paying living wages and offering stable, adequate hours for all retail workers." ■

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