For Amanda Hernandez, each day begins at 3:30am when she leaves her Brooklyn apartment to head to her shift at a grocery store in midtown Manhattan. From 5:00am-1:00pm, Amanda unloads deliveries from the trucks, stocks the shelves, works the cash register, deals with customer service concerns, and more. She gets paid $14.10 an hour over her 8-hour long shift, but her work in retail doesn’t end when she leaves the grocery store at 1:00.
Amanda is involved in several initiatives to make the retail world a better place for its workers. Leaving her previous job in social work to begin at the grocery store, Amanda knew she would be taking a pay cut as a retail employee. This pay cut was worth it for her, however, to be able to make an impact for others through her work with the Retail Action Project. RAP is a member-based organization with the mission of building worker power and elevating industry standards.
In the retail world, Amanda has noticed several issues that need to see major changes. The Retail Action Project not only provides education on finances, health insurance information, and more; it also provides a supportive center for advocacy for retail workers. It’s here that Amanda attends rallies, continues to increase her education on current laws and policies for retail workers, and ultimately finds her voice to support oppressed retail employees.
One of the major challenges Amanda finds as a grocery store worker is classism. She, along with many other employees, can feel it in the air when customers come in and immediately think they’re better than the hard workers stocking shelves or checking them out at the cash register. Amanda also witnesses her coworkers deal with outright racism, for example hearing a man tell his partner to ask a black woman employee about coconut oil since, “they use that shit on everything.”
As a retail worker, Amanda sees the intersectionality of gender, race, and class play out in cases over and over again. “We deserve a better industry,” she explains. With a low salary already, these hard workers must speak up about the oppression they feel from both customers and fellow employees. Amanda believes that women in retail positions have a lot of power that they don’t know about, and she encourages women to not be afraid to tap into that. Whether it is unequal pay, unfair working conditions, or systematic oppression in the work place, every retail employee has a duty to educate themselves, speak up and make the industry a better place to work.
On April 4th, Equal Pay Day and every day moving forward, Amanda Hernandez will continue to raise her voice for equality for all in the retail industry.
YWCA Brooklyn’s graduate social work interns, Madeline Lucas, Rebecca Telfort, and Zazu Tauber, conducted interviews and wrote the stories of these dynamic and courageous workers as part of our effort to share real life experiences of women in the workplace during Equal Pay Week.