Restaurant critic Patricia Escárcega doesn’t think her bosses at the Los Angeles Times value her work. On Sunday (Nov. 15), Escárcega took to social media to air her grievances about what she calls a “Grand Canyon-size pay gap” between her, a Latinx critic, and her co-critic, a white male. Both were hired as critics for the newspaper’s food section in 2018.
Escárcega wrote that after waiting six months for a response from the company about a pay discrimination claim she filed through her union, she finally received a memo from her employer–a memo, she says, that was “extremely painful to read.”
“The L.A. Times said I am not worth the same as my male or white colleagues,” Escárcega wrote on Twitter. “The letter says I deserve to make only two-thirds of what my co-critic is paid–even though we have the exact same job responsibilities.”
Last night, after nearly 6 anxious months of being told “the company will have a response for you shortly,” my employer, @latimes, finally handed me a decision on the pay discrimination claim I filed through my union.
— Patricia Escárcega (@piescarcega) November 15, 2020
Remezcla has not seen the memo sent to Escárcega. We have reached out to the Times for a response but have not heard back as of publication.
Escárcega says the Times told her that when she was hired, the company classified her as a “junior critic,” which would explain the pay difference. The excuse, however, does not make sense to Escárcega. She says she was always told that her and her co-critic were equals and never heard the term “junior critic” before.
“Systemic bias and discrimination is too sanitary and too kind a term for this ugliness,” she wrote. “Pay discrimination is rampant in newsrooms, but it is also highly personal, the product of many people’s individual decisions.”
Bill Addison, the white male restaurant critic making more money than Escárcega, said he backs his co-worker and made that known to the company earlier this year.
“Management received a formal letter from me months ago to make my position clear: I stand with Patricia in her fight for equity,” Addison wrote on Twitter. “We are co-critics, we perform the same job, we should be paid equally.”
Management received a formal letter from me months ago to make my position clear: I stand with Patricia in her fight for equity. We are co-critics, we perform the same job, we should be paid equally. https://t.co/d34rajePKk
— Bill Addison (@BillAddison) November 15, 2020
Remezcla has reached out to Escárcega asking if she plans on filing a discriminatory lawsuit against the Times but has not heard back yet. “I refuse to let this discrimination stand,” she wrote. “It is immoral, unethical, and illegal.”
Along with Addison, other Times colleagues came out in support of Escárcega, including art director Martina Ibáñez-Baldor, staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez and cooking columnist Ben Mims.
— Martina Ibáñez-Baldor (@A_MartinaIbanez) November 15, 2020
Unbelievable. I am so sorry. I’m so ashamed of everyone at the @latimes who signed off on this decision and anyone else who hasn’t stopped to value your tremendous talent, Patricia.
— Esmeralda Bermudez (@BermudezWrites) November 15, 2020
God, I’m so sorry Patricia. I didn’t think this would ever be the outcome after all the months of promises to “do better.” You deserve so much better. ❤️
— Ben Mims (@benbmims) November 15, 2020
Only two months ago, the Times Editorial Board printed a column that recognized and apologized for the newspaper’s long history of racism and pledged to do better. They called it a “self-examination.”
“While the paper has done groundbreaking and important work highlighting the issues faced by communities of color, it has also often displayed at best a blind spot, at worst an outright hostility, for the city’s nonwhite population, one both rooted and reflected in a shortage of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian and other people of color in its newsroom,” the column read.
It continued: “Where does the Times go from here? An organization should not be defined by its failures, but it must acknowledge them if it is to hope for a better future.”
It’s not enough to acknowledge, Times editors. Once acknowledged, the problems must be fixed. If not, what’s the point of hiring someone like Escárcega in the first place if you only mean to diminish her work from the start?