First come protests.........
Maria Rodriguez with the last pay stub she
received before being fired for missing work
to attend an immigration rally. Others fired
sit behind her.
For Immigrants and Business, Rift on Protests
By MONICA DAVEY
Published: April 15, 2006
In Bonita Springs, Fla., 10 restaurant workers were fired this week after skipping their shifts to attend a rally against legislation in Congress cracking down on illegal immigrants. In Tyler, Tex., 22 welders lost their jobs making parts for air-conditioners after missing work for a similar demonstration in that city.
And so it went for employees of an asbestos removal firm in Indianapolis, a restaurant in Milwaukee, a meatpacking company in Detroit, a factory in Bellwood, Ill.
In the last month, as hundreds of thousands of people around the country have held demonstrations pressing for legal status and citizenship for illegal immigrants, companies, particularly those that employ large numbers of immigrants, have found themselves wrestling with difficult and uncharted terrain.
They worry about how to keep their businesses operating, fully staffed, but also not to appear insensitive to a growing political movement that in many cases sustains their work force.
Some fired workers have complained that they were being singled out for their political views, and a few have filed formal complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. Other protesters have cut deals with their employers to work extra shifts in exchange for time off, or to close down their small businesses entirely, in deference to the sentiment behind the demonstrations.
In at least one instance, nearly 200 fired workers in Wisconsin were reinstated, demonstration leaders said, after the leaders met with employers, discussed the significance of the protests and threatened to identify the companies publicly.
"I have no problem with the demonstration, but this is a business," said Charley Bohley, an owner of Rodes restaurant and fishmarket in Bonita Springs, who fired the 10 workers there after posting a note warning employees that they could not miss work for a rally on Monday. "Couldn't they have protested in the morning before work? Couldn't they have protested in their hearts?"
Though the number of workers who have lost their jobs across the country, estimated in the hundreds, is small compared with the numbers marching in the streets, some protest organizers say word of the firings spread rapidly and might have a chilling effect on many more workers and on students, some of whom also say they have faced discipline for missing school for rallies.
Look, people aren't being fired for missing work. People who go out on protest today will vote for unions tomorrow. Why? Because once you demonstrate the power of collective action in the streets, you can do it in the workplace.
posted by Steve @ 12:03:00 AM