Race File

Neither Job nor Airport Security

By Samantha Chanse Jun 15, 2002

Airport screeners across the country are speaking out against the new law prohibiting noncitizens from working as airport screeners. The new citizenship requirement in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act signed last November is scheduled to take full effect by November 2002.

Nearly 30,000 immigrant airport screeners will lose their jobs if the law is kept in place. SEIU, ACLU, and community organizations such as Filipinos for Affirmative Action have filed a discrimination lawsuit on behalf of immigrant screeners, charging the federal government with violations of due process and the Fifth Amendment.

Noncitizens constitute about a quarter of airport screeners across the country. In California, where the campaign against the citizenship requirement has been the most active, 40 percent of Los Angeles International Airport and 80 percent of San Francisco Bay Area airport screeners are immigrants with permanent legal residence. Over 75 percent of the 1,250 screeners at the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose airports are Filipino.

The campaign hopes to pressure Congress to repeal the citizenship requirement before the November deadline and to allow immigrant screeners to keep their jobs in the meantime. Critics of the citizenship requirement point out the hypocrisy in federal policy that permits immigrants to enlist in the U.S. military forces but not to screen passengers boarding a flight.

"It really upsets me to know that it’s O.K. for me to serve this country and be willing to die for this country. Yet I’m not able to work for the government as an airport screener," said Jeimy Gebin, a baggage screener at LAX, in an interview with the New York Times. Gebin, an immigrant from El Salvador, is a veteran of the U.S. Army.

In early March, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced that the Transportation Security Administration had signed a $100 million contract with NCS Pearson, a Minnesota test-scoring company, to recruit over 30,000 new airport screeners.

Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of SEIU, summed up the campaign’s position in a February statement: "Americans want security, not scapegoating."

No Quiero Taco Bell

If you have noticed any banners depicting a chihuahua declaring, "Yo no quiero Taco Bell," chances are the Taco Bell Truth Tour was on the scene. Beginning on February 28 and organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Truth Tour hit 15 cities across the country with teach-ins, demonstrations, and rallies protesting the fast-food industry’s role in Florida farmworkers’ exploitative labor conditions. The tour ended on March 11 with a demonstration of more than 1,000 people at the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, California.

CIW’s Lucas Benitez called the labor conditions of farmworkers "a national disgrace" under Immokalee-based Six L’s Packing Co., one of the nation’s largest tomato growers. Since 1980, workers’ real wages have fallen dramatically and they receive no health insurance, overtime pay, sick days, paid vacations, or a pension, and are also denied the right to organize or join a union.

"We as farmworkers are tired of subsidizing Taco Bell’s profits with our poverty," added Benitez. Taco Bell is a major purchaser of tomatoes grown in Florida, the largest producer of fresh tomatoes in the U.S.

CIW, whose members are mostly Latino, Native, and Haitian farmworkers, aims to pressure Taco Bell to use its leverage as a major client of Six L’s Packing Co. to negotiate for improved conditions and wages for its workers. As Romeo Ramirez of CIW points out, "If Taco Bell and other fast-food giants can require their suppliers to treat their farm animals humanely, they should certainly be able to understand our call for humane working conditions."

Boycott Cincinnati

After what’s been described as more than 30 years of racial strife, police brutality, and social and economic apartheid, local community and religious groups have called for sanctions against the city of Cincinnati. Since July 2001, religious and political groups, including the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Black United Front, are campaigning against events and business in the Queen City.

The boycott is the latest effort to rectify a racially tense environment that many claim has plagued Cincinnati for nearly its entire history. Police corruption and brutality, racial profiling, economic disparity, anti-gay and lesbian measures, and many other charges have been thrown at the city.

The boycott has been endorsed by such organizations as the New Black Panther Party and Global Exchange, and artists including Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Wynton Marsalis, and the O’Jays have all canceled appearances in town.

Rather than negotiating or having discussions with its concerned citizens, the city has launched a national publicity campaign. Strategy thus far has included printing and distributing color brochures and sending Mayor Charlie Luken on a speaking tour, all in the hopes of improving the city’s reputation.

Despite the threat of economic troubles for their own community, even the threat of lawsuit, boycott organizers continue their efforts. As Reverend James W. Jones, chairman of the coalition says, "If they want the boycott to go away, let’s come to the table and get rid of the problems."