More than 1.9 million Black Americans work in retail, accounting for 11 percent of the industry's total workforce but only 6 percent of those are in managerial or leadership roles.
According to the report, titled "The Retail Race Divide," full-time Black and Latino salespersons earn 75 percent of the wages of their white counterparts. For Black and Latino cashiers, the figure is 90 percent. Further, Black and Latino workers are sometimes stuck in "occupational segregation;" not only are they over-represented in low-wage industries such as retail, but they're also over-represented in the lowest paying positions within these industries. Fully 17 percent of Black retail workers live below the poverty line, compared to 9 percent of retail workers overall. More than half of Black workers are responsible for at least half their household's income, and they are the most likely of all retail workers to be the sole breadwinner in their households - 26 percent are, compared to 15 percent of white workers, and 18 percent of retail workers overall.
While Black, white, Latino, and Asian people work part-time at even rates, nearly half of all Black and Latino retail workers would prefer full-time hours compared to 29 percent of whites. "Although just-in-time scheduling can have negative effects for any retail worker, there is reason to believe that the burden is disproportionately heavy on Black and Latino workers," the report states,
“They are, in effect, segregated by color and income. Now, not segregated as a matter of law, as was the case many years ago...but certainly by circumstance, by industry practice. Even where we don't have overt discrimination that violates Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act), there are subtle forms of discrimination that may also violate Title VII, but are less obvious," said Cornell Williams Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. "It's not necessarily that a company has a policy that says African-Americans and Latinos should be overrepresented at the cash register and in lower paid positions. But rather, if they do not have policies to ensure African-Americans and Latinos have access to and are encouraged to apply for better paying positions as managers, there's something profoundly wrong."
According to recent analysis from the National Low Income Housing Coalition-an affordable housing research and advocacy organization - there's nowhere in the country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment (priced at the Department of Housing and Urban Development's standard of Fair Market Rent), without paying more than 30 percent of their income.
"There's this notion that people working in the retail industry are young, inexperienced, and lack dependents. But here's the blue-collar reality: 90 percent of African-American and Latino retail workers are over 20 years of age, and half of them provide at least 50 percent of the income their families need to survive," Brooks said. "We're not talking about adolescents at the cash register working part time or working to add a little something to their young budgets. We're talking about people who have families to support."