Tuesday, January 1, 2008

POINT . . .COUNTERPOINT (TO BORROW A TITLE)

This is a reply to the comment from THATBOYAINTRIGHT who offers a contrarian point of view.  Thank you for posting your comment including the link to the article in the BOSTON GLOBE.  Here’s the link: 

 

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/28/firing_of_spanish_speakers_leaves_many_unfazed/

 

In my reply, I’ll offer a few key points.  Here’s the first part of the comment post:

 

“The email posted equates speakers of a foreign language (i.e. Spanish) with illegal people. They are two separate issues and since companies can fire illegal people anyway one is not even relevant to the other.”

 

I didn’t get this out of the article.  I can see where people would since when one speaks of Hispanic immigrants there are many that assume that the reference is to illegal immigrants.  I agree they are two separate issues since it cannot be assumed that all Hispanics or Spanish-speaking people are here illegally.

 

“In truth, this bill is a political gimmick... part of the desperate attempt by some to play on the emotions of folks in order to discriminate.

But I will play along and take the issue at face value....

This bill wants to give employers the ability to fire people... but it is unclear =who= they want to be able to fire.

I think the bill is quite simple and very clear.  I disagree with the idea that it’s a political gimmick.  This is a response to an out of control Federal agency.  After the Salvation Army had given these employees an employment opportunity in the first place even though they could not speak English was a gracious act.  After having been employed for MORE THAN AN ENTIRE YEAR, and they couldn’t speak even conversational English, it was appropriate to release them.  According to the Boston Globe article, they were only required to learn basic English.  How can you serve customers in an English-speaking country when you can’t talk with them?

      
“Are these employees people with the ability to speak =both= English and Spanish who choose to speak Spanish to each other, or are these employees who are unable to speak English?”

 

The bill, S. 2453, does not refer to bi-lingual people.  If the people who were fired from the Salvation Army were bi-lingual, there would not have been a problem.  S. 2453, Section 2, only requires an employee to speak English while engaged in work [subsection (o) (1)]. Section 2, subsections (2)(A)(B) specifically exclude meal breaks, rest periods, other types of breaks from the use of English.  The definition of these breaks in Section 2,subsection (2)(B) uses the Federal government’s definition already in existence.

 

“And what of those people who are here legally & are still learning the language? I know some people here from SE Asia who have been here 10 years & are still learning the language. After working all day, they take English classes 2 nights a week.”

 

Legal or illegal doesn’t matter as stated in the first paragraph of the comment.  It does not take more than a year to learn at least SOME English.  The SE Asian people referred are making the effort.  After ten years, I guarantee they can speak basic English, although maybe not perfect.  They are obviously interested in having a very good command of the English language as shown by their perserverance.  That’s OK.  I have conducted business with many Asians who speak broken English, but they can communicate and do business.  S. 2453 simply makes states that an employer can require an employee to speak or agree to speak English while performing work activities.

I’ve copied the actual bill below as taken from the Library of Congress’s website: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.2453:.

I wanted everyone to see it for themselves instead of just taking my word for it.

 

 Protecting English in the Workplace Act (Introduced in Senate)

S 2453 IS

110th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 2453

To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to clarify requirements relating to nondiscrimination on the basis of national origin.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

December 12, 2007

Mr. ALEXANDER introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

A BILL

To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to clarify requirements relating to nondiscrimination on the basis of national origin.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Protecting English in the Workplace Act'.

SEC. 2. REQUIREMENTS REGARDING SPEAKING ENGLISH WHILE ENGAGED IN WORK.

Section 703 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e-2) is amended by adding at the end the following:

`(o)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to require an employee to speak, or an applicant for employment to agree to speak, English while engaged in work.

`(2)(A) An individual shall not be considered to be engaged in work under paragraph (1) during a bona fide meal period, a rest period, or any other break, during which the individual is not required to perform any duties.

`(B) In this paragraph, the term `bona fide meal period' means such a period, and the term `rest period' means such a period, within the meaning of section 785.19 of title 29, Code of Federal Regulations (or any corresponding similar regulation or ruling).'.

 

“In summary: the bill can easily be used to fire people because of their nationality, race, or any other pre-text. And since it doesn't distinguish between legals & illegals, it can be used to discrimiante against =legals= here too.”

There is nothing in S. 2453 that would allow people to be fired because of their nationality, race, anything else.  The Civil Rights Act and an abundance of caselaw would prohibit that.  S. 2453 does not authorize any employer to use such criteria to fire someone.  It doesn’t distinguish between legals and illegals, because for this issue, it is not relevant.  You have many immigrants that came here legally but have no interest in becoming Americans and assimilating which includes learning the language.

 

THATBOYAINTRIGHT stated he just wanted to keep the discussion going.  You have, and I thoroughly enjoy point and counterpoint, to borrow a phrase.  Thanks again for your post.

5 comments:

thatboyaintright said...

Part 2

There is a reason we don't have an official language in the US. Think about it: if we have an official language, it will be that of the majority, or the political majority. If we make Laws like this =now= when English speakers are the majority, then one day another language group can take control of political power & then they can make another language the official language. Each time an amendment to the Constitution has been offered to make English the official language, Congress has soundly defeated it . . . precisely because making language official means the Gov't no longer has to accommodate other languages. That means in 20 years, should Spanish population continue to grow as it is, it is possible that Spanish speakers outnumber English speakers. The law would have precedence to adopt an Official Language. Then all of us non-Spanish speakers will be taking classes to learn the New Official Language.

We have to consider the precedence & why this sort of law has been rejected since immediately after the Bill of Rights was adopted.

While it =sounds= good, the unintended legal consequence is one Congress has been defeating since the 18th century.

thatboyaintright said...

This is good discussion.

The point I am making is that the Bill is going to allow some discrimination we really don't want. For example, what are the criteria for "basic English?" Who makes that determination? How can we be sure employers aren't firing =legal= immigrants under the English Language Bill when really it is discrimination based on other factors?

The part that bothers me about the Bill is that it doesn't distinguish between legal & illegal immigrants. Illegals are not protected under the rules already, so the this English Language Bill can only be applied to =legal= immigrants, despite the emotional ploy of the original email.

In the matter of the Salvation Army, these were 2 employees that worked in the back, away from the general public, & sorted clothes. How is a command of the English language of DEFCON importance in that regard? Senator Alexander's bill is offered to play on emotions since he talking points around it have =no= relevance to back room clothing sorters at the Salvation Army. That means the email about severed limbs & the like is more an appeal to bias than to fact.

Continued . . .

gehi6 said...

These matters certainly have relevance in Arizona where I live.  Now all official papers here are printed in both English and Spanish.  I worked in Revlon some years ago and there were many Spanish speaking workers there who could not speak English but the jobs were entirely physical so speaking English was not required there.  I tried to learn Spanish and found learning another language extremely difficult because my hearing is not acute so I couldn't tell the fine differences in the words.  I thought to myself what a pickle I would be in if I had to learn Spanish.  Some pick up English fairly easily but we often talked of members in the family for example who had never been able to learn but a tiny smattering of English.  

ma24179 said...

Just passing through, Happy New Year! -Missy

wwfbison said...

Legal or illegal...if someone is in our country they should be required to speak our language, period.
Lisa
http://journals.aol.com/wwfbison/life-on-a-bison-farm/

Happy New Year to you!