What rights do workers have to participate in "A Day Without Immigrants"?
+ Right to Free Speech & Protest
Right to Free Speech & Protesting During Non-Work Hours - The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from restricting your right to free speech. This means that you have a right to participate in political protests, marches, and demonstrations. This right applies to all residents of the U.S., regardless of immigration status. In addition, You have the right to engage in political protests during non-work hours—for example, on your day off or on a day you are not scheduled to work. In most cases, your employer may not discipline you, fire you, or otherwise retaliate against you for engaging in political activity during your free time.
+ Right to Improve Working Conditions
Right to Improve Working Conditions (National Labor Relations Act) - The NLRA provides protections to workers who act together and participate in political activity designed to improve working conditions for all workers, depending on the form that action takes. Actions taken during work hours may be subject to restrictions imposed by lawful work rules that are applied equally by the employer to all employees. We encourage workers to outreach to local labor attorneys for support in drafting letters/petitions to notify employers of why you are taking action on May Day. Here is a toolkit in how you can draft a letter to your employer, as well as following best practices before, during, and after.
+ State Laws
Some state laws afford greater protections to workers who engage in political activity. For example, the California Labor Code protects employees who engage in political protests. Workers should ask local worker centers, local immigrant rights advocates, or their local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office for information about additional protections available.
Workers protected by union collective bargaining agreements should talk to their union representatives before participating in A Day Without Immigrants. Collective bargaining agreements that cover unionized workers may provide them better protection for engaging in political activity than other workers have. However, most union contracts include “NO-STRIKE” provisions that prohibit union members from engaging in strikes like A Day Without Immigrants. Click here to view the national and local unions that have endorsed Cosecha's May 1st strike.
+ Re-Verifying Work Authorization
If you take time off from work, that does not give your employer the right to ask that you reverify your employment eligibility by showing them your documents again. Nor may your employer single you out for reverification because you appear to be an immigrant or have participated with other immigrants in protests.
What are the best practices to protect yourself?
+ If your company has rules for requesting time off, follow those rules.
Get a copy of your employer’s employee handbook or any written company policies about taking time off, then read them carefully. Ask your employer to show you a written policy. If, instead, your employer tells you the policy verbally, write down what your employer tells you (document it). Include an explanation of why you are participating (see below).
+ Be honest with your employer about why you want to take time off.
If you and your coworkers have a workplace-specific request related to immigration policies to make of your employer, it may be appropriate to make that request during the meeting when you ask for time off. In general, try to use the meeting as an opportunity to educate your employer about the need for humane immigration policies.
+ Talk to your union representative.
If you are covered by a union collective bargaining agreement, talk to your union representative before you participate in A Day Without Immigrants.
+ Encourage your employer to join you.
If your employer has been supportive of similar events in the past (i.e. February 16th strike, past May Day marches), write a letter asking him to participate in the strike and outline why you think it is important to come out on May Day.
+ Request the time off as a group.
Meet with your employer with one or more coworkers who also want to participate in the action to ask in advance for time off. Talk to coworkers you trust and ask them to join you, the more of you the more leverage you have on your employer. Always go in a group and talk with your employer about labor rights issues.
+ Give a written explanation with your request.
Have all workers who are participating sign and keep an extra copy of what you deliver. Here is a toolkit in how you can draft a letter to your employer, we advise your reach out to an attorney for support.
+ State that your objective is to improve your well-being at work.
Ask your employer to take a specific action. State that you support better wages, working conditions, and rights for all workers (including a way by which immigrant workers can legalize their immigration status). Avoid referencing broad public issues/policies without referencing them to specific workplace terms or conditions.
+ Research state laws.
Some states afford greater protections to workers who engage in political activity.
+ Talk to local labor attorneys.
Meet with local labor lawyers and do an analysis of your worksite and the demands or claims you could potentially allege. Reach out to your circle coordinator, as they should have access to an employment lawyer from the National Lawyer’s Guild Labor & Employment Committee or reach out to your local worker center.
+ Record all your interactions with your employer.
Keep a diary with date and est. time during which you employer talked to you (whether positive or negative) about your participation on May Day, WHETHER this is before or after the action. In addition, you should keep copy of all the documents you present to your employer and any document they give you. Maintaining an open diary of these interactions will be helpful in the future. It is important to take note if your employer’s time-off policy is applied equally to all workers regardless of their race, national origin, religion, or gender.
+ Post on Social Media.
In addition to delivering the message to your employer, post on social media to document your reason for striking. You can post a picture of the letter you submitted to your employer.
+ Return to work after the strike.
Go back to work in your next scheduled shift, if you only requested May 1st as time off, don’t take additional days off.
What if your employer denies your request for time off?
Know the possible consequences.
If your employer denies your request for time off, be aware that if you miss work or call in sick to participate in the protest, your boss could fire you because you missed work or were dishonest.
Write an explanation.
If your employer denies your request for time off, and you decide to take the time off anyway, write a memo to your employer stating the below reasons. Remember that you risk being fired or disciplined if you decide to take the day off work without first getting permission from your employer.
- The reasons your employer gave for denying your request
- Explaining that you still intend to take the day off and the reasons why
- Post it on social media
Organize a Walkback.
Before May 1st circle members, faith leaders, family and friends of those striking should organize to accompany workers in their next regularly scheduled shift. We will demonstrate employers that workers have the support of community members.
Continue to Record Interactions.
Leading up to the strike, keep careful track of how your employer treats other workers who “no call/no show” and/or call in sick when the employer knows they are not sick. An employer should not treat participants in the May 1st Strike more severely.