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  • 'Day Without Immigrants' expected to hit US economy

    1 May 2006



    LOS ANGELES - Latino leaders laid last-minute plans for Monday's "Day Without Immigrants," a nationwide strike and boycott to brandish their economic power as lawmakers debate restricting immigrant labour.


    Many Hispanic groups urged their members to forgo work, school and shopping on Monday to press lawmakers to allow the estimated 12 million mostly Latino undocumented workers to stay.

    "We have to make our presence felt through our absence," organizers from the nation's most influential Hispanic groups said Friday at their final press conference before the mass boycott.

    Monday is a normal work day in the United States, where Labor Day is celebrated in September instead of May 1. However, it might look more like a May Day abroad, complete with demonstrations called by labor unions and workers' rights advocates.

    The demonstration was planned by a network representing some 40 million Hispanics.

    "We've unequivocally called on all families to participate in the Great American Boycott and the marches -- and that translates into not going to work, not going to school, not shopping and not selling," Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association, said at Friday's press conference.

    However, city and school officials and the "We Are America" coalition, which includes the Roman Catholic Church, are encouraging people to go to school and work and then join the demonstrations later in the day.

    The division over the way the protests should be carried out is as evident among political leaders as it is among unions.

    President George W. Bush criticized the boycott and a measure to have a Spanish version of the US national anthem, urging immigrants instead to learn English so they can sing the original version of the song.

    California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also denounced Monday's boycott, but the state's Democrat-dominated Senate approved a resolution supporting it.

    Meanwhile, food giants such as Tyson Food Inc. and Cargill Foods announced the closing of at least eight plants, while Goya Foods announced a complete halt in its daily distribution. All three companies said they understood the sentiments behind the protest.

    "It's no surprise that food companies are taking a position favoring workers, given that many of them employ immigrants, most of them Hispanic and many of them illegal," Angel Luevano, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, told AFP.

    Wal-Mart, which employs more than 1.3 million people, has not yet announced what it will do if a sizable number of its Hispanic employees take the day off.

    The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, however, cautioned that workers must first get their bosses' consent to be absent from work on Monday, in order to protect themselves from being fired. Nonetheless, it voiced support for the "just reform" the immigrants are seeking.

    The stand taken by the chamber -- representing nearly two million Hispanic-owned businesses that bring in 300 billion dollars in sales each year -- was echoed by the National Council of Chain Restaurants, which represents 40 different chains with some 2.8 million workers.

    Leaders from unions within the AFL-CIO, a labor umbrella group of more than nine million workers, said they support the strike and pledged to join the demonstrations.

    But the United Farm Workers' Union, although it supports immigration reform, urged members to participate in the rally after work, to avoid being fired.

    Meanwhile, a group of lawyers in Los Angeles announced that they would be outside the city's immigration office on May 5 to volunteer their services to anyone who is penalized for taking part in the demonstration.

    "In California, the world's fifth-largest economy, one in every four residents was born elsewhere, so it is important to realize that our economy has come to depend on immigrants," Gloria Romero, the Democratic state senator who introduced the resolution supporting the boycott, said Friday.

    Though the economic impact of the "Day Without Immigrants" is hard to predict, some analysts expect a major social impact akin to the dawning of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s.

  • #2
    1 May 2006



    LOS ANGELES - Latino leaders laid last-minute plans for Monday's "Day Without Immigrants," a nationwide strike and boycott to brandish their economic power as lawmakers debate restricting immigrant labour.


    Many Hispanic groups urged their members to forgo work, school and shopping on Monday to press lawmakers to allow the estimated 12 million mostly Latino undocumented workers to stay.

    "We have to make our presence felt through our absence," organizers from the nation's most influential Hispanic groups said Friday at their final press conference before the mass boycott.

    Monday is a normal work day in the United States, where Labor Day is celebrated in September instead of May 1. However, it might look more like a May Day abroad, complete with demonstrations called by labor unions and workers' rights advocates.

    The demonstration was planned by a network representing some 40 million Hispanics.

    "We've unequivocally called on all families to participate in the Great American Boycott and the marches -- and that translates into not going to work, not going to school, not shopping and not selling," Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association, said at Friday's press conference.

    However, city and school officials and the "We Are America" coalition, which includes the Roman Catholic Church, are encouraging people to go to school and work and then join the demonstrations later in the day.

    The division over the way the protests should be carried out is as evident among political leaders as it is among unions.

    President George W. Bush criticized the boycott and a measure to have a Spanish version of the US national anthem, urging immigrants instead to learn English so they can sing the original version of the song.

    California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also denounced Monday's boycott, but the state's Democrat-dominated Senate approved a resolution supporting it.

    Meanwhile, food giants such as Tyson Food Inc. and Cargill Foods announced the closing of at least eight plants, while Goya Foods announced a complete halt in its daily distribution. All three companies said they understood the sentiments behind the protest.

    "It's no surprise that food companies are taking a position favoring workers, given that many of them employ immigrants, most of them Hispanic and many of them illegal," Angel Luevano, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, told AFP.

    Wal-Mart, which employs more than 1.3 million people, has not yet announced what it will do if a sizable number of its Hispanic employees take the day off.

    The US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, however, cautioned that workers must first get their bosses' consent to be absent from work on Monday, in order to protect themselves from being fired. Nonetheless, it voiced support for the "just reform" the immigrants are seeking.

    The stand taken by the chamber -- representing nearly two million Hispanic-owned businesses that bring in 300 billion dollars in sales each year -- was echoed by the National Council of Chain Restaurants, which represents 40 different chains with some 2.8 million workers.

    Leaders from unions within the AFL-CIO, a labor umbrella group of more than nine million workers, said they support the strike and pledged to join the demonstrations.

    But the United Farm Workers' Union, although it supports immigration reform, urged members to participate in the rally after work, to avoid being fired.

    Meanwhile, a group of lawyers in Los Angeles announced that they would be outside the city's immigration office on May 5 to volunteer their services to anyone who is penalized for taking part in the demonstration.

    "In California, the world's fifth-largest economy, one in every four residents was born elsewhere, so it is important to realize that our economy has come to depend on immigrants," Gloria Romero, the Democratic state senator who introduced the resolution supporting the boycott, said Friday.

    Though the economic impact of the "Day Without Immigrants" is hard to predict, some analysts expect a major social impact akin to the dawning of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s.

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