Monday, May 01, 2006

"El Boicot" Set to Test Employers in US

By: Edward Alden and Jenny Johnson in Washington and Christopher Parkesin Los Angeles
Financial Times
April 30 2006

As Tanya posted earlier today, many Hispanic workers and people opposed to Congress’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration, will protest today by walking out of work and demonstrating against the bill which would make illegal immigrants felons. Today, which is dubbed “El Boicot” or “A Day Without an Immigrant,” is aimed to show Americans what a day would be like in the United States without the work and consumption of immigrants.

Several industries like small retailers, meat packing plants, and restaurants heavily depend on immigrant labor and have prepared for possible shutdowns. For instance, “in Los Angeles, a fruit and vegetable market in the city center, employing 1,800 and serving 4,500 restaurants and 3,000 shops, will be closed today.” John Gay, Senior Vice President for the National Restaurant Association, states that the Association is on the same side as the immigrants from a policy standpoint; an ironic fact given that restaurants are likely to suffer the brint of closures due to the boycott.

There is however, some dispute, even among Immigrant groups, regarding whether or not the boycott should happen. Los Angeles’ Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was an avid supporter of the March 26th demonstration, which consisted of over 500,000 people jamming the streets of central LA, urged people to work and go to school normally during the day, and attend a major rally afterwards. A few union leaders have predicted that more than 2 million people will rally in Los Angeles and walkouts are expected at several educational institutions.

As a result of potential massive workouts, employers are faced with the task of disciplining those employees who chose to walk out. Since most employment is of the at-will variety, employers will have a huge leeway in deciding whether or not to terminate these workers. Employees are urged to ask for the day off, but “improper use of a sick leave [can be] construed as grounds for disciplinary action.” Angelo Amador, Director of Immigration Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns that disciplinary action should be consistent: “You have to be careful if somebody takes off to go to a baseball game and you don’t fire them for that, then you cannot fire them because of this.”

Today is meant to be an eye-opening experience showing the impact that immigrants have on the economy of our country. So what will you do? Will you be one of the estimated millions of people to walk out today? Stay tuned for what I imagine will be increasing discussion on the matter.

1) What do you think? Do you think that immigrants should protest today and walk out of their jobs, or do you agree with Cardinal Mahony?

2) What is that likely impact that this walkout will have on American commerce? Will anything change?

3) What, if any, impact will the “Day Without an Immigrant” have on Congress? Do the men and women in Washington care?

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