Will Park City go "a day without" their Latino workforce?
While Irma Montes’s husband will have permission to take the day off from his employer, Park City’s Subway told Irma that Monday, May 1 will be just like any other workday. Despite following her typical routine, however, Montes plans to mark the scheduled "Un Dia Sin Emigrante" by wearing decidedly out of the ordinary colors, to reflect her solidarity with her fellow immigrant Latinos.
"My husband will not go to work, but I will be working — our boss says that it’s a business day, so we have to work, but we are wearing white for peace," she says.
In response to U.S. Congress’ proposed legislation that would criminalizes illegal immigration, stiffen penalties for human traffickers and those who assist immigrants in the U.S., Latinos nationwide will choose not to work or shop at stores on Monday. Others, who worry they will lose their job should they take the day off, or would rather work, will wear white shirts and blue ribbons, to reflect one of the colors in the American flag.
Tony Yapias, director of the nonprofit, Proyecto Latino de Utah, and leader of the Salt Lake Latino community, has organized a "walk for liberty," scheduled for after work hours, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Liberty Park. He calculates he has rounded up more than 3,000 blue ribbons for distribution. On fliers he emphasizes those who wish to bring flags to his event should only bring U.S. flags as "a sign of our respect for this land of opportunity."
Yapias will also be working with Park City’s McPolin Elementary students to organize a Park City event for Monday, he says, but again, he stresses the difference between "walk" and "march" or "demonstration."
He does not believe that walking out of work is constructive, he explains — it has created a negative feeling about the Latino community at a time when it is asking for immigration reform, Yapias says.
"The March April 9 was a historic march and we can’t top that," he asserts, referring to the massive demonstrations across the country and in Salt Lake, some of which included hundreds of thousands of people. "’A Day Without Latinos’ is not something I’m supporting in any way we’re leaving it up to the individual to decide what they think is best for them."
Yapias recognizes that many Latinos will not be able to afford to take the day off. He says he knows employers have threatened to fire Latinos who asked to leave. He calls his walk the alternative.
What Yapias would like to do is provide a space for the energy he’s witnessed in the month of April, from the march a few weeks ago, to the countless phone calls he says he’s received during his Salt Lake radio program.
"Even the kids want to do something on Monday With energy like this, it’s so important to understand the feeling and if we organize it and plan it well, then the risk of problems or violence will be lessened by it," he explained.
Jose Suarez, owner of the Park City Spanish market, La Michoacana, believes in the message of avoiding work and consuming goods, he says, and will close for the day in honor and out of concern for the Latinos he knows who are undocumented.
"I have my papers and everything, but I have friends and family without papers and I worry for everybody. I worry because all the people here have a house, cars business, whatever," he explained. "I want to help them. They should be legal At least some should have temporary work permits."
The hard work construction, cleaning toilets at hotels are jobs that Americans should not feel they’ve lost, according to Suarez.
"I don’t know why they say immigrants come to take the jobs If we weren’t here, there wouldn’t be anyone to work for $7 an hour," he explained. "The news says we’re criminals, but we come here to work only and pay taxes like everyone else Most of the people I know want to live in this country in peace."
A handful of employers in the Park City area have publicly declared a day off on be half of their Latino employees. The Bill White Restaurant Group, which operates Chimayo, Grappa, Whaso, Ghidotti’s, and Windy Ridge café and Bakery in Park City, ran an advertisement this week explaining they will be closed Monday, and Greg Schirf, owner of Park City’s Wasatch Brew Pub and managing partner for Squatters-Wasatch Brewery in Salt Lake, says he will be giving all of his employees a paid day off and also plans to join the walk in Salt Lake.
Schirf has been vocal about his support for the Latino community and the need for better immigration policy in the United States, writing a letter to the editor in the Park Record asking others to join him in support of Latinos, and giving an interview for the Salt Lake Tribune.
Yet, "We’re not trying to draw attention to ourselves, but we’re trying to stand up and do what we think is right and give some support and appreciation to vital employees," he said in a phone interview with The Park Record.
What’s "right" is to give the Latino community, including the 30-35 Latinos Schirf employs, the freedom to take the day off and give them the freedom to make their case to the community at large and to the nation, he explains.
"The position we’re taking is that this is a huge, huge issue that hasn’t been addressed adequately and that if this helps raise the consciousness and create a dialogue to address the problem of illegal guest workers and finding out a way to deal with it sensibly, then we’re hoping this is a start," Schirf said.
The "Walk for Liberty" will begin at Liberty Park, 500 East 900 South in Salt Lake City at 5 p.m. Those attending are advised to bring U.S. flags only. For more information, visit http://www.los yapias.com or call (801) 560-3218.
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