Put a nickel on the drum, but no pesos please. Salvation Army attacked for policy of all-English, all-the-time

Dennis Baron debaron at uiuc.edu
Sun Aug 26 04:42:34 UTC 2007

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Put a nickel on the drum, but no pesos please. Salvation Army  
attacked for policy of all-English, all-the-time

In 2005 the Salvation Army fired two long-time employees of its  
Framingham, MA, thrift store for speaking Spanish, not English, on  
the job.

The Salvation Army’s long-standing English-only requirement is  
articulated in its employee handbook, available only in English.  It  
states that workers must use English “when speaking to any other  
employee, beneficiary, customer or to a supervisor.”  But the rule  
wasn’t enforced until 2004, five years after Dolores Escorbor and  
Maria Del Carmen Pedromo had begun working at the Framingham store.

The Salvation Army gave the two Hispanic women a year to bring their  
English up to speed, and when that didn’t happen, they were sacked.   
Now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stepped in to sue  
the Christian charity, whose mission statement calls for it to meet  
human needs “without discrimination,” for discrimination.

The Salvation Army denies breaking the law, insisting that its  
English-only policy “serve[s] only to protect the welfare and safety  
of our employees and those whom we serve in fulfillment of our  
mission.”  To make sure everyone gets that message, the Army said it  
in Spanish as well: its employees must speak English for “la  
protección del bienestar y la seguridad tanto de nuestros empleados  
como de aquellos a quienes servimos en el cumplimiento de nuestra  

Exactly how speaking English protects the welfare and safety of two  
women whose job is sorting clothes for a thrift shop isn’t entirely  
clear.  Plus the Salvation Army is apparently busy saving souls in  
languages other than English all over the world.

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Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


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