SOME SYMPATHIZERS WENT TO WORK
- SENSE OF LOYALTY, RESPONSIBILITY KEEPS SOME SYMPATHIZERS AT WORK
Lisa Fernandez, Mercury News, 5/2/06
While thousands of immigrant-rights supporters took off work Monday to
join the protest march, many others clocked in because they needed the
paycheck, or wanted to show their importance in another way: loyalty
to their bosses, customers or co-workers.
Martha, who came 10 years ago from Durango, Mexico, and who asked that
her last name not be used, reported to her job as a preschool teacher
in Fremont, even though she fervently opposes the bill that would make
illegal immigrants felons.
She said she has a ``sense of responsibility to the kids'' who need
her. She has two children in school herself and wouldn't appreciate it
if their teachers' went out on strike, leaving her without anyone to
watch her 7- and 9-year-olds.
``I think there are two lines of thought on this,'' said Safaa
Ibrahim, 31, executive director of the Council on American Islamic
Relations in Santa Clara, which sent two representatives to the San
Francisco rally. ``Don't show up for work and show the impact that
has, or you should protest in a more constructive way, by showing your
work ethic, that you're responsible and a contributor.''
She surmised that's why the rallies in Oakland, San Francisco and San
Jose were spaced throughout the day so that protesters could try to
both work, and attend an event.
There is no wrong or right answer to that philosophical quandary,
Ibrahim said, who noted, ``I feel odd being here at work today, but I
had two important meetings that I just couldn't reschedule.''
Jeff Starbeck, owner of two popular Sonoma Chicken Coop restaurants --
San Jose and Campbell -- tried to be helpful to his predominantly
Mexican-born staff -- roughly 140 employees -- by asking how they
wanted to handle the rally. He closed his downtown location when his
workers chose to march.
Sympathetic to their cause, and noting he loves his staff ``to
death,'' Starbeck estimated the closing would cost him about $10,000
in lost business. ``I tried to see if they could just work from 11
a.m. to 1 p.m.,'' said Starbeck, ``but they said, `You don't
understand. It's an all-day deal.' ''
Meanwhile, the 45 employees at his Campbell location preferred to
work, and Starbeck kept the doors open.
Beto Hernandez, 27, who immigrated from Queretiro, Mexico in 1997, was
one of those employees who worked behind a burner during lunch at the
Hernandez said he could still support the immigrant-rights movement in
other ways, such as wearing a symbolic white shirt. His need for a
paycheck was personal and important.
``I have to support my niece,'' Hernandez said. ``If I take some days
off now, I may need them in the future.''
Contact Lisa Fernandez at (510) 790-7313 or
lfernandez @ mercurynews.com
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