For fear that their families would catch coronavirus, several daycare operators in Los Angeles closed. But Salvadoran Maritza Montoya kept her business open to contribute from the trenches in the fight against the pandemic. In the midst of the quarantine, she cares for the young children of workers considered essential, including two hospital employees.
“It is my way of wanting to help”, Montoya said in an interview with Univision Noticias, which took place in the middle of a busy day caring for six children, whose ages range from seven months to six years. He has had to deal with virtual classes and the lack of medical supplies. The disinfection of the nursery is constant. His work begins from dawn and ends until the afternoon.
“It was a critical and stressful situation, because these children’s lives are our responsibility and we don’t have what we need. We don’t have mouthguards, we have made them out of cloth; just yesterday I got a bottle of alcohol and we couldn’t find gloves, we used plastic ones in the kitchen ”, describes this 56-year-old Central American.
Montoya was an architect in her country. He was 30 years old when he left his office and his house in El Salvador to seek the americano American dream ’. It was 1992. Here he raised his three children and one of them now helps him in daycare. He opened it 24 years ago and ensures that even during the 2008 crisis he had had so few children in his care. Without their nursery, she stresses, the parents of those children would perhaps be at home.
“Hispanics are essential to the economy of this country. Where would these parents leave their creatures? How would they do to work? Perhaps I am not the best example, but I try to give the best service so that families are calm, “he says.
The Hispanic workforce remains active in hospitals, nursing homes, police departments, fields, supermarkets, public transportation, meat processors and in various sectors that the government classifies as vital to keep the country running during the order to stay home.
Hispanics and other minorities who continue to work have also been disproportionately affected by covid-19 and the worst part has been for women, according to an analysis by the AP agency based on data from the Census Bureau in the 100 largest cities in the United States.
The report notes that workers with the essentials label are more likely to live below the poverty line, They have children and live with people who also carry out front-line work. AP indicates that Hispanics make up 14% of supermarket employees and that they are a large part of those who keep stores afloat. Several are first generation migrants.
Labor Day protests
The importance of this ethnic group during the quarantine has been highlighted this Friday, when Labor Day is commemorated, through demonstrations in different parts of the country and a bell on social networks titled #ImmigrantesAreEssential (Immigrants are essential).
They also took the opportunity to demand better working conditions, access to medical care and that are included in the economic relief package from the federal government that issues checks for $ 1,200. Other protests organized by supporters of President Donald Trump in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere instead called for reopening the economy.
“Essential workers like child care providers, school workers, janitors and others are at the forefront of the crisis helping to care for, feed and educate our children. In addition, they are disinfecting school sites so that they are safe when students return to class, ”Max Arias, executive director of Local 99 of the SEIU union, told this newspaper.
“This is why we demand that all workers have access to the necessary protective equipment. In addition, we demand that immigrant workers be included in all government emergency aid packages, ”he emphasized.
One of the protests that took place this Friday focused on a Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles, California, where at least 19 employees tested positive for coronavirus, this is 15% of their payroll, reported Local 770 of the UFCW union. The Ralphs chain has not commented on this.
“This store has the highest number of publicly reported positive cases of retail supermarket workers in California,” the UFCW said in a statement.
Another industry in the eye of the hurricane is food processing, since several workers have been infected in plants in Minnesota, South Dakota, Arizona and other states. 44% of that workforce is Hispanic and 25% black, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Numerous companies in the meat packaging industry have failed to take the necessary precautions to protect workers,” notes a letter that Hispanic lawmakers sent to Trump asking him to investigate the conditions of these processors.
Struck by deaths and unemployment
Several indicators agree that the coronavirus has been rampant against Hispanics in this country. According to the first reports based on ethnic origin, this group registers a large number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from this disease.
In New York City alone, the death rate for this group is nearly double that of white people, according to preliminary data released by health officials and quoted by the newspaper. The New York Times.
In Los Angeles they are the group with the most deaths and infections: 38% of 1,111 deaths and they register 5,900 cases of infections, authorities reported Thursday.
They also swelled the ranks of the unemployed, in part because only 16.2% of Hispanics can perform their trades at home, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
For its part, a survey by the Pew Research Center conducted in late March found that half of Hispanics (49%) said they suffered a pay cut or lost their job due to the coronavirus, compared to 33% of Americans usually.
This analysis published in mid-April warned that nearly eight million Hispanics work in restaurants, hotels and other sectors severely impacted by the current crisis.