19th   ·   Link to Article

They lost the most jobs in the pandemic. Now Latinas are back at work in historic numbers.

...That underscores a reality that women of color, who are more likely to be sole caregivers while also working, are driving a recovery not because they are necessarily prospering, but because they have no other choice but to work. 

That rings true for Maria Bedolla, a housekeeper at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, who joined tens of thousands of workers earlier this week in voting to authorize a strike on the Las Vegas strip after their contract negotiations deteriorated.

“That’s part of the story of all who arrive in this country,” Bedolla said in Spanish. “We start working, it doesn’t matter what it is — we need work right away. In this job, there are women who are 65, 66, 67. They are never going to leave their jobs.” 

Bedolla emigrated to the United States from Mexico in 1996 and started working at Mandalay Bay shortly after. She has learned English on the job or from her kids, but she’s never had the opportunity to take formal lessons because of her long hours. She and many of the women she knows stay in one job their entire lives if it means avoiding going through an interview process, she said, where they don’t speak the language or may be discriminated against. 

Since the pandemic, Bedolla’s workload at the casino has grown as hotels have changed their policies so that rooms are no longer cleaned every day. Before, she’d clean 15 rooms in a day on the same floor. Now, she has to schlep across the entire casino to meet her 15-room quota, often encountering rooms that are filthy after days without housekeeping service. It has amplified the physical labor of her job. The back pain starts earlier. She may take two extra strength Tylenol with her lunch now. And when she gets home every night, she’ll take a shower and swallow two or three Advil to alleviate the pain, sometimes wishing her teenagers won’t ask her to make dinner. Going on strike, she said, is her last hope in an effort to cling to a job she’s held for two decades, one that has sustained six children.

“We can’t continue like this,” said Bedolla, 52. “We want our jobs, we want our benefits, but we also want to have a job where we don't have to leave every day taking pills.” 

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