Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nashville groups work with employers for May 1 walk-out

Nashville's Conexion Americas and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition have been in contact with employers in advance of the May 1 grassroots movement alternatively called a "Day Without an Immigrant," a "National Day of Action," and the "Great American Boycott." The concept is that immigrants and their allies will not participate in the economy on May 1, in an effort to bring light to the contributions of immigrants to the economy and the systematic injustice built into current immigration laws. The May 1 event and earlier waves of protests nationwide were sparked in part by harsh Congressional immigration proposals.

David Lubell of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition had this to say, followed by a copy of TIRRC's sample letter to employees:

In regards to the events of May 1 in Nashville, many Latino workers will be staying home from work, and many Latino consumers will not be buying anything on that day. This is a decision that has arisen organically from within the community. A work stoppage has been called for on the national level, and that call has resonated deeply with workers here. Undocumented workers have felt powerless for a long time, and I believe the idea of a work stoppage has resonated because it gives workers an opportunity to express themselves by taking away the thing they are most valued for in the U.S. - their labor.

The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition has had many meetings over the last few weeks with immigrant workers, and at every meeting workers have told us the same thing: "We want to participate in the national work stoppage on May 1." TIRRC never called for a work-stoppage, but once it became clear that it was going to happen, our volunteers decided the most important thing to do was to make sure it was done in a responsible, well-organized manner. It is for that reason that we are holding several community meetings over the next few days. At these meetings we will be trying to educate workers about the risks of not working on May 1st (the largest risk of course is losing their jobs), and the best way to approach their employer if they plan to participate in the work stoppage.

We are also trying to do everything possible to educate employers and the public at large that the purpose of the work stoppage is not to punish employers or anyone else, but instead to raise awareness in Tennessee about the indespensable economic contributions immigrants make to the economy. Many Nashvillians do not realize how much immigrants contribute to the local economy, and "a day without an immigrant" is an opportunity to do some broad education.

We have begun speaking with employer groups about May 1, and the response has been more positive than we expected. In addition to Latino businesses, there are also several "non-immigrant-owned" businesses and business groups in Nashville and in Knoxville that have said they will be closing on May 1st in a show of support.

In order to assist workers and educate employers, we have developed a letter for Latino workers to submit to their employers explaining why they want to take off from work. We are distributing this letter in English and Spanish. This letter emphasizes the idea that employers are a crucial ally in the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform, and that the work stoppage is not intended to punish them. I have attached that letter below.

Lubell also recognized that the support for a work-stoppage is not universal, even among immigrant advocates, but that all immigrant advocates can agree that legal reform is needed to respect the contributions that immigrant workers make to Tennessee.

TIRRC's letter:

Dear Employer,

I am writing to let you know that on Monday, May 1, 2006 I do not intend to come to work. Instead I plan to participate in “a day without an immigrant,” a national effort to bring attention to the undeniable importance of immigrant workers to our nation’s economy. We are asking for changes to our immigration laws which would give many immigrant workers a chance to earn legal status. We see you as an important ally in this effort, and apologize for what we know is a major inconvenience.

I have joined this effort because this past December, the House of Representatives passed a terrible bill that would make undocumented immigrants into aggravated felons and would also make anyone who works with them a criminal (HR 4437). Instead of attacking immigrants, employers, and service organizations, we want Congress to give many immigrants a chance to be here legally. I hope you understand the importance of this effort. If immigrants, businesses, churches and others who believe in the dignity of all people do not work together for comprehensive immigration reform, we all stand to lose.

Please tell your senators to stop the advancement of misguided immigration proposals, and instead to support “comprehensive immigration reform” which includes an eventual path to citizenship for hard-working immigrant families. Please help in this cause by contacting Senator Frist and Senator Alexander today, and by giving me your blessing on May 1st. Immigrants have always made this country stronger. Let’s work together to make sure this proud tradition continues.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

With all due respect,
Your employee

Conexion Americas issued the following statement and also proposed a letter for employers to distribute to their customers in regard to May 1:


Conexión Américas embraces May 1st as another national day of action in support of comprehensive immigration reform and in opposition to legislation that fails to fix our broken immigration system and criminalizes immigrant workers.

On May 1st, immigrant communities, employers, and allies across the nation will engage in a myriad of activities lifting up the contributions of immigrant workers and families. They will be calling on Congress to pass humane and workable comprehensive immigration reform through interfaith vigils, voter registration drives, community gatherings, educational events. In some cities Latino workers will be staying home from work and will not be buying anything on that day.

Conexión Américas recognizes that there is a heart-felt clamor within our community for recognition as economic contributors as workers and consumers. In solidarity with the Latino community nationwide, Conexión Américas will join this national day of action and will be closed for regular business on May 1st. Our staff is currently participating in community planning events, seeking to influence that sound and wise decisions are made regarding Mondays’ activities. Specifically we are stressing the following points:

* Children must attend a full day of school that day.
* Workers should inform and negotiate with employers by using sick, vacation or personal leave to minimize their risk of losing their employment.
* We are encouraging employers, to the extent possible, to consider supporting their employees’ participation in the Action Day. (We are making available the attached letter as a sample of how employers can articulate their position with customers & employees. Feel free to use it)

Conexión Américas will continue bringing attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform that contributes to our mission of promoting the social, economic and civic integration of Latino families into the local community.

Conexion Americas' proposed letter for businesses to send to their customers:

To our Valued Customers,

You are certainly aware of the immigration reform conversations taking place across our nation, including right here in Middle Tennessee. All sides of this debate at least agree that reform is needed. Certainly reform is imminent at the federal level, and there are many initiatives being considered by the Tennessee State legislature.

I have written and rewritten this letter in an attempt to remain politically neutral, while advocating immigration reform that is economically, socially and morally acceptable. In the end, I have decided to leave the arguments to the politicians. However, some developments cannot be so easily ignored:

On May 1, immigrant workers and their allies are planning a major day of action to ask U.S. Congress, among other measures, to grant undocumented immigrants the right to work legally in this country. All Latinos and immigrants, legal and undocumented, are being called upon to participate in local peaceful rallies and community events and to not work on that day.

At (BUSINESS NAME), we are particularly sensitive to this issue. (Many, Nearly half , Several) of our employees are (Hispanic/immigrants). These are the people who day in and day out make this business possible.

We are supporting this national day of action and allowing, without repercussion, our immigrant employees to miss work on Monday May 1. This will inevitably affect our ability to serve our customers that day and we recognize this will present an inconvenience to you. I invite you to use this as an opportunity to educate ourselves and reflect on our reliance on the contributions of immigrant workers to our business and our daily lives.

We will also “feel the pain” of this disruption to our business on May 1st. I will make myself available to you on Monday and will try to help in any way I can. Of course, you will not be billed for work you do not receive.

Please don’t hesitate to call me at ________________ with your concerns or comments.





* All employees are W-2 wage earning employees and all pay taxes.
* All employees are fully covered by worker’s compensation insurance.
* State and federal unemployment taxes are paid for all employees, and therefore all are eligible for unemployment benefits.
* All employees have provided documentation that attests to their authorization to work in the U.S.
* All employees have undergone a criminal background check.
* Starting wages for a (BUSINESS NAME) employee is $__.00 per hour.
* Federal minimum wage is $5.15
* All (BUSINESS NAME) employees share in the same benefits program.

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