Recently, in the Southern Maryland community and on the St. Mary's College campus, we have noticed a disparity in numbers between people of color hired for service jobs and those hired for faculty and administrative positions and other work that is higher paying and holds more social power.
How do we treat cleaning staff and people who do service jobs on campus? Why do there seem to be a higher proportion of people of color in service jobs and a higher proportion of white people in faculty and administrative positions? Whose work gets valued and compensated more on campus?
Historically, people of color have often been represented as being cleaners, bus drivers, garbage men, maintenance workers, maids, etc. Their white counterparts are often understood to hold more prestigious jobs, from management to CEOs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Hispanics ... account for about 15 percent of all jobs, but a whopping 36 percent of all high school dropouts. They make up about half of all farmworkers and laborers, 44 percent of grounds maintenance workers, and 43 percent of maids and house cleaners. Blacks, who make up just 11 percent of the workforce, account for more than a third of home health aides and about 25 percent of both security guards and bus drivers—rather low paying jobs." In the 2013 analysis from which the above quote is taken, "The Workforce is Even More Divided by Race Than You Think," author Derek Thompson reveals racial disparities in wages, and connects those to a variety of factors, including education. Studies like the Center for Poverty and Inequality's State of the Union and the Harvard Business School study cited in "Hiring Discrimination Against Black Americans Hasn't Declined in 25 Years," clarify how systemic racism leads to income inequality and disparities in who gets hired for what jobs, and how workers are compensated and treated.
At various points in St. Mary's College of Maryland's History, there have been campaigns advocating for a living wage for staff on campus. The most recent, undertaken by students, staff and faculty, received national attention.