Sunday, February 3, 2008

Salvation Army and English ONLY

My first day volunteering as a salvation army bell ringer was on a cold day with a wind chill of -15. I remember no one came to pick up the kettle when we were done. We waited for 3 hours until someone finally showed. When we got home and removed our gloves, our fingers had purple and gray burns from the cold.

Despite this experience, we showed up the next year and the year after. It turned into a yearly tradition. Friends and family began to stop by with tea and cocoa and of course donations every year. For nearly a decade no matter how cold, busy, or sick we were, we made sure to make time for bell ringing.

So imagine how disappointed I was when I found out The Salvation Army has decided to join in on the hostile anti-immigrant climate.

A few salvation army managers recently implemented an English only rule for their employees. This means that even if you speak perfect English, but want to speak to your co-worker in Spanish, you could be fired. According to current law a business can turn away applicants who do not speak English if it interferes with job duties or safety. However, this is not the case with The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is barring any language but English from being spoken in cases when it isn't necessary. If co-workers were chatting about non-work related issues in Spanish, that would be against the rules and possible grounds for termination.

I only speak English but even I was offended by that rule. This rule was meant to single out immigrants. It's one thing to require knowledge of English and require you to use it when necessary. It's another to force you use it when is isn't necessary. The only purpose this rule has is to belittle immigrant employees who retain other language skills.

If this were the case with the U.S. government, President Bush might have been in violation of these rules. He enjoys practicing his Spanish. I don't believe any of the major candidates running for his position speak a foreign language and I can't really judge seeing as how I'm guilty as well. In my lifetime I have been fluent in 3 languages but years of not practicing has left me with English as my sole means of communication (and like Bush, that's up for argument).

*I am not encouraging people to stop supporting the salvation army. I'm merely expressing my disappointment in an organization I once greatly admired. I still do and you should too but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be held accountable for these actions.