Let me first say, for the record… Discrimination is bad.
That must be clear.
Treating people unfairly based on their race, age, gender, religious affiliation, or sexual preference isn’t very nice.
(No, this isn’t a discourse on Sochi.)
Discrimination is bad.
Discriminación es mala.
But… some acts of discrimination are more poetic than others.
For some context, Chivas USA is a subsidiary of C.D. Guadalajara. C.D. stands for “Club Deportivo” or Sports Club. Guadalajara is a beautiful Mexican city with about 1.5M citizens.
A “chiva” is a goat.
C.D. Guadalajara was founded in 1906 and is one of the most revered fútbol teams in México.
It’s kinda a big deal.
Also noteworthy and additive to its bigdealness is this: C.D. Guadalajara is the only football club in Mexico to exclusively field Mexican players.
For over 100 years, C.D. Guadalajara has only fielded Mexican players.
That sounds discriminatory in nature.
Not in Mexico.
In 2012, partial owners Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes became sole owners of Chivas USA.
One of their first acts was a staff meeting.
It was conducted in Spanish.
Last November, Vergara allegedly said at a staff meeting that non-Spanish speaking employees would be fired. He asked those who spoke Spanish to raise their hands and then asked those who spoke English to also do the same, the suit said.
“‘If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for the (L.A.) Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language,”’ Vergara allegedly told employees, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Chivas USA is trying to mirror the “Mexican-only” policy of its Guadalajara counterpart.
For the sake of brevity, let’s ignore the bizarre statement about Chinese not being a language. What struck me about this story is how many people are shocked at this behavior.
I mean, where in the U.S. is it OK to have workers marginalized, ignored, or fired because they don’t speak a certain language?
For one… construction sites.
Every day around the country Spanish-speaking workers are hired and quietly sit through English-language Power Point presentations serving as New Hire Orientations. These Spanish-speakers are given English-language documentation that is ultimately completed by their 5-year old child.
Every day around the country sites hold “Toolbox Talks” to discuss hazards on the job. The workers gather ‘round, autograph the sign-in sheet (to be covered, legally-speaking…) and engage in conversation about how to return home safely at the end of the day.
Ok – not all workers.
Just the English-speakers.
For Spanish-speakers, they simply sit in on a meeting they don’t understand.
A bit like Vergara’s Spanish-only Chivas USA meeting for the English-speakers.
Now I know what you’re thinking – this is America!!!
They should speak English!
(I don’t disagree with you, although volunteering for the past 2 years teaching English skills to Spanish-speaking immigrants has provided a different perspective.)
Here’s the point: Very rarely do we, as English-speaking Americans, feel what it’s like to be an outsider, a nobody, a piece of equipment used to hang 40 sheets of drywall each day or unroll 8 miles of sod.
Very rarely do we, as English-speaking Americans, feel what it’s like to be ignored and marginalized because of our language.
In this case, a few English-speaking Americans got to feel what it’s like.
They didn’t like it.
They filed a lawsuit.
HBO Real Sports did a piece on it.
Yes, discrimination is bad.
But maybe this bit of Chivas Discriminación can help us look at ourselves more closely.
HBO Sports noted a silver lining – and a word of caution for English-only jobsites.
“Independent of the club’s alleged pro-Mexican policies, it’s been a disaster at the gate averaging a league-low 8,715 fans. This represents a 33 percent drop off from 2012.”
The fans voted with their feet.
Discriminación doesn’t boost attendance.
Keep this in mind on your jobsite.
In many parts of the country there is a shortage of reliable labor.
Got an English-only jobsite?
The workers will vote with their feet.
Discriminación doesn’t boost attendance.
Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.
If you enjoyed this post and would be interested in other related content, subscribe to our monthly Newsletter – the Red Angle Revista. Once a month, no fluff, no sales pitches. Just ideas and language skills to help you run a better job.