Firestarter Magaly Licolli on Fighting for Immigrant Workers
Magaly Licolli says when you are advocating for worker rights, sometimes you have to stop worrying about being polite.
The needs of immigrant workers in Arkansas often boil down to a disturbingly simple notion.
“If you ask poultry workers for their demands, they will say they want to be treated as human beings,” said Magaly Licolli, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center, which works on labor issues with the immigrant community.
And sometimes, Southern “politeness” can be one of the biggest obstacles to justice and fairness. People are often hesitant to go up against the status quo for fear of offending people.
Poultry is one of the biggest industries in Arkansas, with approximately 28,000 workers. Because the industry can put significant money into local improvement efforts, many community members were uncomfortable confronting the corporations over worker issues.
Licolli said it’s important to challenge comfort zones.
“We will not effect change by caring about the feelings of people with privilege.”