Why Aren't We Talking About Working-Class Americans of Color?

After the election, much of the discussion has been focused on working-class voters, but many of these discussions are heavily focused on white working-class voters and they largely leave out working-class voters of color. But if you look deeper, the economic anxiety that was said to be a driving force for those white working-class voters is stronger for people of color and it isn't being talked about that much at all.

CNN Money runs down some of the numbers:

  • "In a CNN/Kaiser poll taken before the election, 63% of white working-class respondents said they were satisfied with their personal financial situation compared to just 40% of black working-class respondents."
  • "White families, on average, tend to have 13 times more wealth than black and Latino families, according to the Pew Research Center."
  • "Blacks and Latinos also tend to be paid less than whites and they are also more likely to have higher rates of unemployment than whites do. They are also more likely tolive below the poverty line than whites."
  • "One study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that black employees with more experience and education were still paid less than their white counterparts."
  • "Another study by the Corporation for Economic Development and the Institute for Policy Studies said if current trends persist, it would take 228 years for black families and 84 years for Latino families to accumulate the same amount of wealth as whites."

William Spriggs, AFL-CIO chief economist, condemned the avoidance of discussing people of color as working class:

'In general, there is a tendency to not talk about blacks as workers. This hurts the whole dialogue.' Instead, black and brown workers are considered 'underclass' as opposed to working class and 'lazy' instead of hardworking, said Spriggs. And yet, they too have worn overalls and lost factory jobs. 'The notion of the white working class implicitly embodies a view of white privilege. It implies that things are supposed to be different for them, that they aren't the same, that they aren't going to face the same pressures.'

Spriggs also said:

More white workers should view the lower wages and higher unemployment of blacks with empathy and as an indication the labor market really hasn't worked as well as believed. Accepting bad outcomes for some workers should always have been interpreted as a threat to all workers' well-being. So, anger at the system should not have manifested itself in voting for an anti-union candidate who did not talk about raising wages for Americans.

The labor movement has one message for all our members and indeed for all working people: You are not alone. We will stand together. We will protect the freedoms that make America—and we will protect those freedoms for all who live and work here.