By Jose Angel Gutierrez
Originally published en espanol in La Estrella newspaper of Fort Worth, reprinted by permission of author.
The idea of an economic boycott by immigrants in the US on May 1st is a good one. The economic might of immigrants, legal or not, in the United States is two-fold: labor power and consumer power. California Gov. Pete Wilson proposed and supported Proposition 187 which contained the basic anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant provisioins of the current James Sensenbrenner bill that passed the US House of Representatives last December 2005. In both cases persons of Mexican ancestry in the US rose in opposition and organized massive protests.
The idea of a national boycott was discussed by various leaders and attempted. I know some of us put up signs on our doors then: No Compro/No Trabajo. The media then like now said our boycott was ineffective. Employers then like now told employees they would be fired if they did not show up for work or participated in protests. Nothing much has changed.
If you want to change public policy and law, you must challenge it and be prepared to pay the consequences. In this case who is really needed? Is it our labor that is more important or is it that we have a job that is more important?
Several so called “leaders” are flying off to Mexico to discuss how to stop the boycott. President Fox is not interested in upsetting the dialogue and relations between him and Bush. Mexico is the largest trading partner of the US in the Americas.
Immigrants of all types, Cuban, Indian, Vietnamese, Dominican, Mexican, Salvadoran, Polish, Greek, etc. earn money in the US and send some to their homeland. These remittances save the US government lots of money in foreign assistance they do not have to send those governments. And these government get this money “free” without any effort. They enjoy the benefits of these immigrants working outside their country.
I do not know how effective the boycott will be but two things are sure. First, US workers will once again join the rest of the world in celebrating May 1st as the Day of the Worker internationally. The US government broke away from that tradition to split US workers from the international community and allows Labor Day on the first Monday in September. The US government shot and killed labor protestors during the Haymarket Riots in 1896. Thereafter, organized labor in the US chose to celebrate on another day not in May.
Second, economic boycotts work best when you have a specific target. A target in 1987 was Disney Corporation because they gave money to the advocates of Proposition 187. In 2006 the target some boycott organizers suggest ought to be is James Sensenbrenner. He is the heir to the Kimberly Clark fortune. They make Kleenex, Kotex, Depends, Scott tissue, Pull-ups, Huggies, Little Swimmers, Viva, and Cottonelle products. We all use them at sometime.
There is also Kimberly Clark de Mexico, SA. If Sensenbrenner does not want Mexicans in his midst then why should Mexicans buy his products?
Third, some of us will pay the price and boycott. I will not work that day. I will show a movie during a lunch hour at the university where I work about the greatest tennis player of all time, Pancho Gonzalez. Come visit, it is free on May 1, noon, University Hall Room 121 (University of Texas – Arlington).