[Marxism] who needs the Latino bourgeoisie?
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
By MIRIAM JORDAN, JUNE KRONHOLZ and BARRY NEWMAN
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
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
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
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
By BARRY NEWMAN
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
"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
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
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
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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