Boycott does not cripple Greensboro

by Jordan Green

Monday’s ‘“day without immigrants’” reverberated through Greensboro with symbolic force, but appeared to spare the city’s economy much significant disruption.

Luis Roman, a 45-year-old undocumented immigrant and a coworker were taking a break around noon at the construction site for UNCG’s new studio arts building on Highland Avenue. He picked up the phone to tell the superintendent a reporter wished to speak with him.

‘“Gringo or Mexican?’” asked Larry Tate, superintendent for New Atlantic Contracting.

‘“Gringo,’” Roman said. ‘“All the people of Mexico stayed home today, remember?’”

Hanging up the phone, Roman explained that he as a Spanish-speaking immigrant only communicates with his boss in English. His boss, a native-born white American, only speaks Spanish to Roman. Each is learning to speak the other’s language.

Tate gave his employees the option of working on Saturday and taking Monday off, or working on Monday. Only two of his thirty-some employees decided to skip work on Monday. He was letting all of them leave early to demonstrate. Roman planned to take part in an immigrant rights rally in Winston-Salem.

‘“I don’t think it will make any difference, do you?’” Tate said. ‘“People will spend the money tomorrow or they spent it yesterday. A lot of people worked Saturday knowing they’d be out today. I think the point will get across though. I think they need to be allowed a work permit. We need to tighten the border and do things right.’”

Rick Sloop, the Clancy & Theys superintendent responsible for building the new Harris Teeter on Friendly Avenue, said 15 to 20 workers, including plumbers and concrete finishers, stayed out. As subcontractors they were free to do so, but he said he expected them to make up the work.

Mexican small business owners, particularly those who cater to other immigrants, stayed out in significant numbers.

The window of Dinero A Mexico, a Holden Road store where immigrant workers send remittances back home, displayed posters urging immigrants to demonstrate Monday at Greensboro’s Governmental Plaza. Cashier Dulce Alvarez was there waiting for a driver to pick up the payments. Otherwise, she said, the store wouldn’t be doing any business.

‘“Every Mexican store owner decided to close to support the employees,’” she said. ‘“I agree with the boycott because we Hispanics have strength in the economy and it’s not recognized. Other people don’t recognize that they’re doing a good job. I called the other stores and they all say they’re closed today.’”

– Jordan Green