Los Angeles Times food critic Patricia Escarcega denounced the newspaper in a Twitter thread on Sunday, accusing her employers of paying her significantly less than her white male counterparts.
“Why hire the first Latinx restaurant critic in the history of the L.A. Times and then pay them so much less for doing the exact same work?” she tweeted. “I refuse to let this discrimination stand. It is immoral, unethical, and illegal.”
In the thread, Escarcega recounts how she filed a pay discrimination claim through the L.A. Times Guild six months ago after discovering she was being paid two-thirds of what fellow critic Bill Addison was being paid. Both Addison and Escarcega were hired two years ago to replace late longtime critic Jonathan Gold, with Addison coming to the Times after serving as the national food critic at Eater, while Escarcega came from the same position at the Phoenix New Times.
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But in the Times’ two-page response to her, Escarcega says she was told she was being paid less than Addison because she “did not bring prestige to the paper, and because the company says our job classifications aren’t the same,” even though their hires were announced simultaneously and they have regularly been billed as co-critics.
“Without telling me, the company classified me as a junior critic upon hire, even though I was told repeatedly by managers that I was equal to my co-critic, and I have always been expected to do the same work, and held to the same expectations and standards,” she wrote. “This week, many people at the L.A. Times put their heads together and wrote me a letter that said: Your work is not worth the same as a white man’s.”
Escarcega’s accusations stand in sharp contrast to the promises of reform and diversity made in August by the paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. As part of a series of self-examining editorials and reports exploring the history of discrimination and bias in the Times’ newsroom and coverage over the decades, Soon-Shiong promised to “achieve a newsroom where Latinos make up one-quarter of our staff” by 2025.
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“The LA Times is not immune to the disease of institutional racism metastasizing in our country. I apologize for not empowering our Latino journalists and staff at the rate and scale required to reverse the legacy of racism and restore the health of our industry,” Soon-Shiong wrote at the time. “The commitments outlined today cannot erase our failure to prioritize the Latino community. Yet my hope is for this letter to reflect a new page in our story.”
But Escarcega says that her experience at the Times has been a continuation of the discrimination Soon-Shiong has promised to confront.
“This decision is a sharp reversal of what the Times indicated over the summer, when I was informally told that it was working on a resolution, and when a manager called me in June to tell me that the company was ‘fixing’ the Grand Canyon-size pay gap between its two restaurant critics,” she wrote.
“It sends a heart-breaking message to every Latinx kid like me, who dreamed of some day [sic] writing for the Times; to our readers, who deserve a paper where Latinx and women are valued and paid the same as their white male counterparts […] and to all readers and students of journalism, who deserve a paper that acts honestly, ethically and in good faith, rather than a company intent on weaponizing the concept of ‘prestige’ in order to try to get away with what one colleague privately described to me as the biggest pay gap she has ever seen at the Los Angeles Times.”
A spokesperson for the Times did not immediately respond to requests for comment.