No-shows expected Monday
Local business managers – some of them immigrants themselves – are readying for possible staffing shortages Monday if immigrants stay at home during what’s being planned as a national day of protest.Operators of restaurants, construction-related companies, lodges, other private businesses, and public-sector entities such as the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority all are waiting to see what the impact of Monday’s event might be. “We’re to remain open no matter what. But I know for sure two or three are not going to come into work, so we are planning ahead, to schedule extra people,” said Dewi Alvarez, manager of Burger King in West Glenwood.She said about 90 percent of her employees are Latino. Alvarez is from Mexico herself, but will not be joining other immigrants in staying home that day.”For myself, I’m going to work. I have a business to take care of,” she said.For absent Burger King workers, Monday will be treated as a personal day off, Alvarez said.Immigrants around the country are planning to stay home from work and school and not spend their money Monday, in an effort to show their role in the economy and society. The protest is in response to legislative efforts to crack down on illegal immigration in the United States.Annibet Griffin, a member of Valley Pax Christi, a group of Anglos planning a lunch-hour gathering at Sopris Park in Carbondale Monday in support of the protest, said she has heard that some immigrants have been told they could lose their jobs if they don’t go to work.”I don’t know how strongly they’re going to feel about it when they’re given an ultimatum like that. Sometimes it’s hard to stick to your principles when you have to feed your family,” Griffin said.Jose de Jesus Carillo, formerly of Mexico City and now living in Carbondale, said he doesn’t plan to work Monday, even though he’s starting a new job as a heavy equipment operator and is supposed to get tested that day.Carillo said there are plenty of construction-related jobs available, so he’s not worried if skipping a day gets him in trouble with his new employer.”It’s springtime now. There’s a lot of work right now.”Carillo, who said he has legal residency papers, wonders about the reasons some people are pushing for immigration reform.”I understand sometimes Latinos are a problem, but everybody’s the same,” he said. Carillo spoke while waiting for a bus outside Safeway in Glenwood Springs. John Hocker, director of operations for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, said a large percentage of RFTA’s ridership is Latino, but it’s hard to tell how much the agency might lose in riders and revenues Monday.Being offseason should limit losses, as should the fact that many riders have monthly passes and don’t pay daily fares.”On a monthly pass they pay for it anyway so if they don’t ride – their loss, not ours,” he said.Hocker is more concerned about being fully staffed Monday. About a fifth of RFTA’s drivers are Latinos.”We have no idea how many people may or may not go to work,” he said.He said RFTA hasn’t wanted to ask Latino workers about their plans, out of fear that bringing up the topic might cause some of them to stay home when they wouldn’t have considered doing so otherwise. RFTA has put other drivers on call Monday, and as long as drivers who don’t show up Monday alert RFTA at least an hour before their shift starts, as RFTA policy requests them to do, “we’re in pretty good shape,” Hocker said.Hocker noted that not only Latinos may participate in Monday’s event. Some of his employees are immigrants from other countries, such as Australia and Germany, and non-Latinos have been a part of recent protests against immigration reform in other parts of the country, he said.Norm Shroll, business manager at Becvarik Bros. Concrete in Glenwood Springs, said about a quarter of that company’s work force is Latino, and he’s heard rumors that some of them won’t show up on Monday.”It’s going to slow us down some, I would imagine,” he said.He expects the construction industry at large to be impacted by the workers’ absence.”It’s going to probably leave the message that we do need them. Whether that’s right or not, I don’t know,” he said.If Latinos weren’t available for hire, it would leave a void at Becvarik Bros., Shroll said.”At this point we’re basically depending on that source of labor. Will it continue that way? I doubt it. I don’t think it will.”If the economy slows, perhaps due to rising gas prices, there will be an overabundance of workers, as was the case for several years preceding the latest construction boom, Shroll said.”Now that we do have work, now they’re going to walk off on us. I guess it’s a good time for them,” he said.He said Becvarik Bros. does its best to make sure all of the Latinos it hires are legal.”Of course I’m sure there are some that slip through,” he said.Debbie Bethell, a front desk worker at Days Inn in Carbondale, said a couple of Latino women do housekeeping there.”I’m not sure if they’re going to work or not (on Monday); I haven’t heard,” she said.She said it helps that the hotel is in its offseason right now. Other employees there will just do extra work if the business is shorthanded Monday, she said.She didn’t know if the women would face disciplinary action by managers if they stay home Monday.”I wouldn’t think so, though. I would hope not,” she said.Immigrants are being urged not only to stay home but to not spend their money Monday, Griffin, of Valley Pax Christi, noted.”Not only are they laborers in a lot of industries that we depend upon, but they spend a lot of money that they make and put it back into the economy,” she said.Griffin said her group is encouraging Anglos who support immigrants to join them in not spending money Monday.A boycott could affect places such as the Bradley Petroleum gas station in Glenwood, where manager Sharon Theorine figures about half of its customers are Latino.”The truth is it wouldn’t worry me but I imagine it would worry Brad,” she said of Brad Caulkin, the station’s owner.As she spoke, Jose Guzman was paying for his gasoline. He said he expected to stay home Monday.Theorine is among those who wonders just how many immigrants will be able to join in the protest, however.”I really think that there are so many that can’t just not go to work because they’re depending on their everyday wages,” she said.Local protest activitiesSome area events being organized in conjunction with a national stay-at-home protest by immigrants Monday: Day of Solidarity, 12:15-12:45 p.m., Sopris Park, Carbondale: Anglos will gather in support of immigrants. Organized by the group Valley Pax Christi. Informational assembly, 1 p.m., Sayre Park, Glenwood Springs: Speeches and music. Organized by local students who ask that student participants give school administrators notes indicating parental permission to be absent from classes.
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