Skip to comments.California gets taste of life without immigrant workers
Posted on 05/01/2006 4:17:43 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Chinese food or a hamburger were easy to come by in the Mission District on Monday. Doughnuts or bagels? No problem. But in a neighborhood where every other storefront seems to house a tacqueria, you would have been hard-pressed to find a burrito.
With leaders of the national "Day Without Immigrants" calling for an economic boycott, many Hispanic-owned businesses closed for the day in the city's unofficial Latin quarter and throughout California, encouraging employees to participate in the massive protest marches.
"Today, no - no working and no buying," said Enrique Varguas, 28, who rescheduled a dozen or so landscaping appointments so he could participate in San Francisco's demonstration. "They will see how much money immigrants spend, and how much immigrants contribute to the economy of the country."
Though participation in the work stoppage was uneven and hard to gauge, its impact was hardly limited to Hispanic neighborhoods in a state that relies heavily on immigrant labor. Building contractors in many communities canceled jobs, appliance stores curtailed deliveries, parents scrambled to make alternative child care arrangements and farms had fewer people to pick produce.
At the state Capitol in Sacramento, the California Legislature canceled its floor sessions and the two onsite cafeterias remained latched because not enough employees showed up. Yet many large manufacturers, including the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Los Angeles and Gallo Wine's plants in Modesto, Fresno, Sonoma and other cities reported they were near fully staffed.
Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles Economic development Corp., said the economic fallout of the one-day boycott could be as high as $200 million in Los Angeles County. The estimate, a fraction of the $1.2 billion in economic activity the county generates daily, consisted of business lost on Monday and took into consideration commerce that would be made up later in the week.
Throughout the state, employers seemed eager to accommodate employees if they could. Fencing contractor Justin Lena had to postpone five of the six jobs he had scheduled in the San Francisco suburbs until Saturday after 14 of his 16 employees said they would not be coming to work.
Lena filled in, shoveling gravel. But he wasn't upset, especially after his most veteran employee told him his friends and family would be angry with him if he breached the boycott.
"The Mexican guys I have who work for me, they are absolutely fantastic workers. I've had Asian, I've had black and I've had white. (Hispanics) are the most hardworking, dedicated, family oriented, focused people I've ever had work for me," said Lena, 26. "The backbone of my business is on their shoulders."
Carmen Murray, owner of Rodeo Carpet Mills in Commerce, Calif., said she was operating on a skeleton staff Monday as two-thirds of her 33-person work force took the day off to attend rallies. She said her workers asked weeks in advance and were allowed to use vacation time.
"We thought it was important for them and we wanted to support their feelings," Murray said.
In food-loving San Francisco, owner Laurie Thomas made a deal with workers at her Rose Pistola restaurant: she would keep the Italian eatery shut for lunch if the night crew promised to show up for dinner. A sign on the door informed patrons of the closure, but didn't give the reason.
"I don't feel compelled to make a big statement about it," Thomas said. "We need to do what's right to run the business and sometimes that includes compromise."
Farmworker advocates claimed the boycott put a significant dent in one of the state's signature industries. The United Farm Workers union said the boycott shut down grape, strawberry and citrus harvests throughout California for the day.
"This really demonstrates the power that we have when we're unified," UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said from a rally in Salinas.
But agricultural interests said farmers were prepared for the boycott and would probably not suffer. Many farms and packing plants let their workers take the time off while others rearranged schedules to make up for missed work on Monday, California Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Dave Kranz said.
Sean McNally, a spokesman for Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, said the company was down to less than 30 percent of its normal work force, but didn't have to close any of its vegetable-growing operations.
"We made it clear there would be no repercussions if they wanted to take that day off. We wanted them to feel free to express themselves," McNally said.
While industries with heavily Hispanic staffs saw the biggest impact, the boycott also had a trickle-down effect. Bay Area 2nd Mom Inc., a Palo Alto-based caregiver referral service, saw a sharp increase in calls on Sunday and Monday from parents who needed a last-minute nanny or baby sitter, said Chief Executive Shalini Azariah.
"Today our phones are just ringing off the hook," Azariah said.
For some enterprises, that meant a boon in business. With so most other restaurants closed, Wan Kee, a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Mission District, did brisk lunchtime business.
"We have to eat, too," said Francisco Sanchez, 25, an ice cream vendor, tucking into a plate of rice and stir-friend scallops before he headed off to San Francisco's protest.
Associated Press Writers Terence Chea, Gary Gentile, Olivia Munoz and Don Thompson contributed to this story.
I had chinese.
I loved it! You could actually stroll through the aisles at Wal-mart.
Great line. lol
Tasted purdy danged gud ta me up here in the Stupid-Sierra-Nevada CONservancy!!! Phhhhhht!!!
Are you kidding me? WHat sort of person leaves their most precious gift with someone who doesn't even speak English. Nanny? What can an illegal immigrant teach my child besides, Spanish and other cultural Mexican traditions? I see this in LA all the time when I am out jogging. They pool in groups with baby carriages and when I smile at them I am given dirty looks that seem to say, "Whitey, how dare you smile at me." I can't beleive people leave their babies with these people. Some of the 'nannies' are very young. Insanity.
Traffic was much nicer around Northern Virginia as well. I'll take 365 days without illegal invaders, please...
I can do without your f-ing burritos just fine, thank you!
OMG! Life without burritos! Oh! The humanity!
Without burritos America would have no problem meeting the Kyoto accords, were we to be silly enough to agree with them.
I worry, though, that the sudden reduction in the production of burrito-fueled greenhouse gases will throw the Earth off its axis, or out of its orbit.
We should immediately throw ourselves upon the tender mercies of our illegal betters, just to save ourselves from the horrible fate of a shortage of burrito gasious emissions.
WOW! I like it! I love it!! I want some more of it!!!
That's REALLY catchy... Giddy up Gringos!!!
uncitizen checking in. I'm still alive!
I went to a Best Buy in Cerritos, CA. Traffic was heavy getting there and when I walked in, I passed two guys walking out that were speaking Spanish. I guess they didn't get the memo.
I had a most excellent day myself.
Didn't set eyes on an illegal, except on TV.
Everyone hear? They are planning this again on May 19th because they want to convince Congress to give them amnesty.
Imagine the horror if they get amnesty and bring in millions more.
This country is NOT big enough for them and us!!
Funny thing, I live in Bakersfield, and work for a major Bakersfield employer, and we didn't have many workers miss work today. In fact, I talked to a couple of gals who are of Mexican decent, and they think the whole thing is ridiculous.
All today proved is that the country does great without illegal immigrants.
What were they trying to prove again?
My husband is the the distribution business. ALL of his drivers showed up for work--mostly hispanic--and were given a 50.00 bonus. The guys on the lines and in the warehouse were a little short of help, but they had called in extra help in anticipation. Those that showed up were given one of their new accounts to work on which will lead to many, many more hours and overtime for them.