[Marxism] who needs the Latino bourgeoisie?

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 11 18:19:30 MDT 2006

                    Below are two Wall Street Journal articles I  forwarded to other lists today. I know it's long, but barely longer  than Joaquin's post on Atlanta (and posted as a partial reply to him).
  The demo yesterday in NYC was every bit as proletarian as Joaquin  describes in Atlanta for the same reasons and with the same look and  sound. And yes, their bosses clearly gave in and/or promoted their  attendance. Which is a sign of the strength of Latino worker sentiment  on this issue -- as well as the desperation of Latino bosses to  continue to be able to exploit their workers and make profits -- the  same as the white bosses profiled in the second article below.
  Sooner or later those Latino bosses will try to rein them in. At that  point we (by we I mean Latino workers and their allies among white,  Black and other workers) will have to step right over them. Just as we  have to explain to workers at GM/Delphi now that their way forward is  to walk out just as Latino workers have been doing this last month.
  Leave it to the Wall Street Journal to catch the full impact  of worker walkouts yesterday. The first article below, "Off the  Job, Onto the Streets," had a very big type headline at the  center-top of page B1, and a very big photo below it.
  ----------------------    April 11, 2006 
          Off the Job, Onto the Streets
      Immigration-Policy Protests Draw Huge Crowds of Workers;  Hints of a Coming 
      Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
      April 11, 2006; Page B1
          As hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets for  the second time in a 
      month to call for immigration reform, employers across the  country got their 
      first taste of worker absenteeism and lower sales –  aftershocks of the divisive 
      national debate that could intensify in coming months as the  unresolved 
      congressional debate over illegal immigration drags on.
      Meatpacking, construction and retail -- especially in the  South and Midwest -- 
      were among industries affected by absenteeism as workers  attended protests in 
      more than 100 cities across the country. The demonstrations,  and their effect on 
      businesses, could foreshadow what may be a bigger national  boycott planned for 
      May 1.
      Yet even as the mammoth street protests grow, there's no  reason to think they 
      will precipitate a quick end to the political impasse over  illegal immigration. 
      Both parties face months of political agony that will grow  more painful as the 
      November elections approach. The stalemate will linger  because Congress recessed 
      for two weeks Friday after an attempted compromise broke  down. Some 
      conservatives, irritated by the Hispanic outpouring, are  suggesting that if the 
      protests continue at the current intensity level, they may  ultimately backfire 
      on the immigration-reform movement.
      National coalitions encompassing labor groups,  immigrant-rights groups and 
      faith-based organizations called several weeks ago for a  "national day of 
      action." The result was a hodgepodge of events, ranging  from hunger strikes 
      to work stoppages across the country. Several cities, like  Los Angeles, 
      organized events at the end of the workday. But in other  parts of the country, 
      events were held in the middle of the day, disrupting normal  business 
      In Arizona, more than 25,000 demonstrators rallied in  Phoenix, while organizers 
      in communities like Dodge City, Kan., asked participants to  wear white in a 
      march to the offices of Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, known  for favoring stricter 
      enforcement of immigration rules. In the first major protest  on a college 
      campus, several hundred students rallied at the University  of California, 
      At a New York rally starting at 3 p.m., demonstrators  filling the narrow 
      confines of Broadway from City Hall north to the edge of  SoHo heard speeches 
      from Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer --  both strongly 
      condemning any attempts to force undocumented immigrants to  leave the country -- 
      and from a string of likeminded community and labor leaders.  In the crowd were 
      day laborers, hospital orderlies, care-givers to the  elderly, pizza cooks, 
      busboys, waiters, bartenders and the simply curious.
      In many places, the events sent businesses racing to deal  with the missing 
      workers. Meatpacking plants in the Midwest and hotels and  other businesses in 
      the South were crippled by absenteeism among Hispanic  workers. Major companies, 
      like Tyson Foods Inc., sought to play down the impact of the  rallies and 
      stoppage on its operations. A spokesman said that  "fewer than 10 of the 
      more than 100 facilities" weren't operating due to the  demonstrations and 
      market conditions.
      North Carolina, home to an emerging Latino population, was  hard hit. A call by 
      local immigrant groups for a retail boycott also prompted  many Hispanics to stay 
      away from work altogether. At the Omni Hotel in downtown  Charlotte, a 
      housekeeping coordinator reported that only two out of a  20-plus staff had shown 
      up. "More than 90% of my workers are Latinas," she  said. "They 
      didn't show up."
      Compare Foods Supermarkets, a supermarket chain that caters  to Hispanics in 
      North Carolina and beyond, saw a substantial slowdown in  business. Cashier 
      supervisor Mauricio Osorio said that there was "nobody  compared with other 
      Mondays." He predicted a 30% drop in sales. German De  Castro, a Colombian 
      native with U.S. citizenship who owns Tex-Fil Inc. in  Charlotte, which processes 
      filament yarns for the knitting and weaving industry, said:  "I had about 20 
      employees. About 15 are Latinos. They all stayed out of work  today. We talked 
      about it and I support this 100%." He said they were  being paid.
      In a "campaign for immigrants' dignity" yesterday,  marchers in Omaha, 
      Neb., carried flags from the U.S., Mexico and other nations.  
      About one-third of U.S. restaurant workers are estimated to  be Hispanic. Bryan 
      Elliot, a restaurant analyst in Atlanta, said that in the  long term, "if 
      events create a reduction in newly arrived workers, that  could significantly 
      raise the cost of meals to ... consumers."
      David Whitlock, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, where  yesterday's 
      demonstration was expected to draw 30,000, said he was  hearing from business 
      clients "concerned" about the prospects of  continuing absenteeism. 
      "I'm advising some companies almost completely  dependent on foreign 
      workers," Mr. Whitlock said. "They're nervous.  They could be 
      crippled." His clients, he said, range from "a  10-person 
      oriental-carpet shop to a 10,000-employee casino  operator."
      Health-care services were especially wary of losing staff  without notice. 
      "Our advice is there's not much you can do other than  asking people not to 
      leave en masse," Mr. Whitlock said. "We're telling  them, apply your 
      absentee policy. If you overreact, in our opinion, you are  wide open for a 
      discrimination charge."
      This week's demonstrations represent the nightmare the  Republicans who run 
      Congress were hoping to avoid by coming up with a new and  softer approach to 
      immigration reform last week -- and is one of the reasons  Democrats weren't 
      eager to move that new approach along.
                  The issue deeply divides Republicans between those who see  easy immigration as key to keeping the economy humming and those who see the country's  porous borders as a threat to national security. Those two wings  reached a wary 
      compromise last week with a Senate bill that would have  given legal residency to 
      illegal immigrants who have been here for at least two  years, but at the same 
      time would have reinforced the border.
      That compromise collapsed on Friday as Republican  conservatives wanted to 
      toughen up its provisions and Democrats refused to vote with  Republican 
      supporters of the deal to cut off debate on the measure.  Congress then went into 
      recess. The result: The face of immigration reform that the  Republican Congress 
      is presenting to the country remains a House bill, passed  late last year, that 
      would make illegal immigration a felony, make it a crime to  help illegal aliens 
      and build a long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.
      It is that measure that has brought Hispanics and other  ethnic groups into the 
      streets by the thousands. The question now is whether the  giant protests enhance 
      or diminish the prospects that Congress will embrace the  softer compromise. It's 
      possible that Republican leaders, fearing the demonstrations  are hurting the 
      party's image with Hispanic voters, will return more eager  to soften their 
      party's image on the immigration question.
      But it's also possible the demonstrations will provoke a  backlash among those 
      who favor a tougher crackdown on immigration. Signs of that  backlash already are 
      sprouting. Irked by illegal immigrants' bold display of  their foreign flags in 
      last week's demonstrations, the Minuteman Civil Defense  Corps, a civilian group 
      that patrols the borders for illegal immigrants, called for  "Take an 
      American Flag to Work" days. It urged its supporters to  "Carry [the 
      flag] to lunch; wear red, white and blue; fly a flag from  your car 
      --Stephanie Kang and Peter Sanders contributed to this  article.
      Write to Miriam Jordan at miriam.jordan at wsj.com3, June  Kronholz at 
      @wsj.com4 and Barry Newman at barry.newman at wsj.com5
      Employers Have a Lot to Lose
      April 11, 2006; Page B1
      Balding and weathered, wearing a work shirt, Dave Penry  stands in a park while 
      men in windbreakers rake grass behind him in a television  commercial that casts 
      him as the unlikely -- and lonely -- front man for employers  who rely on 
      immigrant laborers.
      "My partner and I own a landscaping company in  California that employs 60 
      people, and two-thirds of them are immigrants," Mr.  Penry tells the camera 
      in a 30-second spot now running nationally. "They have  as much pride in 
      America as you or me. We need to fix our laws so they can  work in this country 
      legally and get the respect and dignity they've  earned."
      The camera closes in on Hispanic-looking men pruning trees.  As music rises, a 
      caption appears: "Building the American Dream."
      A TV ad featuring landscaper Dave Penry backs laws friendly  to immigrant 
      Immigrants are protesting from Los Angeles to New York,  lawmakers are haggling 
      over new bills and President Bush talks of bringing millions  of workers out of 
      the "shadows." The voice largely missing from the  tense debate so far 
      has been the bosses who hire illegal immigrants, leaving  their lobbyists to 
      speak for them.
      "We don't press our members to come out and talk,"  says John Gay, who 
      co-chairs the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition. Its 45  members range from 
      the Society of American Florists to the Outdoor Amusement  Business Association. 
      "We make the case," he says, "rather than  having individuals 
      stick their necks out."
      Which is why Mr. Penry, an owner of Pacific Landscapes, Inc.  in Sonoma County, 
      Calif., is so rare.
      "How would you like to have been the first guy to talk  about erectile 
      dysfunction?" Mr. Penry says. "That's a good  analogy. Bob Dole had 
      some guts."
      Mr. Penry was speaking out for a bill that, in sterner form  than he would 
      prefer, got bottled up in the Senate last week. If it sees  the light again after 
      Congress returns from its Easter recess -- and then  overcomes powerful 
      opposition in the House -- at least a portion of the  country's undocumented 
      population of more than 11 million could gain legal status  and eventual 
      But any new regime would also jack up workplace enforcement  and impose severe 
      punishment -- including jail time -- on employers who give  jobs to people who 
      don't have the proper documents. It is a sign of the issue's  history of dangers 
      and delicacies for business that, when asked the direct  question -- Do you, in 
      fact, employ illegal immigrants? -- even Mr. Penry stops  short. He says, "I 
      don't know."
      Unauthorized immigrants may live in the shadows, but they  don't all work in 
      them. The Migration Policy Institute, an independent think tank  in Washington, 
      reports that at least half the seven million thought to be  illegally employed 
      have aboveground bosses who check credentials and fill out  forms, deduct taxes 
      and pay Social Security.
      Of the hotel industry's 1.5 million employees, 150,000  aren't supposed to be 
      here, according to statistics gathered by the Pew Hispanic  Center. In food 
      manufacturing, also with 1.5 million, 210,000 have no right  to work. 
      Landscaping, Mr. Penry's line, has 1.2 million workers,  300,000 of them 
      illegally in the country.
      "Most of the undocumented workers in America are  working for good, 
      reputable, law-abiding employers," he says.
      In 1986, Congress compromised on an immigration bill that  gave legal residence 
      to three million foreign workers while giving the federal  government greater 
      powers to police work sites. Since then, employers have been  asked to inspect an 
      assortment of documents from job applicants as proof of work  authorization, but, 
      apart from blatant forgeries, they aren't expected to be  judges of 
      Even in such businesses as roofing, where one in three  workers is thought to be 
      undocumented, "don't know" is the standard answer  employers give when 
      asked if any illegals are on their payrolls.
      "I wouldn't be telling the truth if I tried to say that  I'm 100% sure that 
      everybody we have is documented," says Rick Birkman, a  commercial-roofing 
      contractor in Austin, Texas. "Is there plausible  deniability in what we do? 
      Sure, there is."
      Employers say it is possible to ask too many questions,  leading job seekers with 
      the proper documents to feel as if they are being unfairly  targeted because of 
      their ethnicity. They say the rules were written that way to  mollify 
      civil-rights groups.
      But others say the law gave bosses an intentional out.  Adopted during the 
      antiregulation Reagan years, it was nevertheless the biggest  leap in work-site 
      monitoring since the Occupational Health and Safety  Administration was created 
      15 years earlier.
      The rules were further eased in recent years. Inspectors now  need written 
      permission from supervisors before entering a work site.  Employers get credit 
      for "good faith attempts" to live up to the law.  Since 1996, when the 
      focus of enforcement began to move away from work sites to  the borders, the 
      number of fines collected have dropped to nearly zero from a  high of about 
      What crystallized the business lobby's support for  immigration reform today 
      wasn't fear of enforcement; it was fear of losing workers.  Its argument is for a 
      new system that maintains the work force and also allows an  employee's status to 
      be authenticated instantly, with something like a swipe card  at a grocery 
      The outpouring of illegal workers that continued yesterday  didn't bring many 
      bosses onto the streets. But Dave Penry is thinking about  it.
      Ten years ago, when the landscaper had 250 employees, a raid  cost him more than 
      50 of them. "A couple of those men named their kids  after me," he 
      says. Now, he feels the atmosphere of protest "is  strangely familiar to the 
      '60s and '70s, when it was all about Vietnam."
      "Sure employers are running scared," says Mr.  Penry. "But a lot 
      of Hispanics have helped my company become successful. It  was time for an 
      employer to stand up." That is why he went on  television. And why, on May 5 
      -- the Cinco de Mayo holiday -- he has given his workers a  day off for a protest 
      "to show America how important they are."
      "I'm willing to go march with these guys," he  says. "These men 
      are my family. We owe them something. We owe them the good  fight."
      Write to Barry Newman at barry.newman at wsj.com1
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