No Shirt, No Shoes, No Green Card
When Alex Villanueva landed an interview for a job unloading trucks at a local McDonald's last December, the St. Paul native figured his odds of getting hired were good. But according to a lawsuit filed in federal court earlier this month, he never had a chance.
According to the suit, a couple of minutes into the interview, Villanueva requested the English version of the company's written test. The manager then asked where he was born. Villanueva answered truthfully: St. Paul.
"Oh, I only want to hire Mexicans from Mexico," the manager replied, according to the lawsuit. "When I hire Mexicans from America, they always quit."
Villanueva didn't get the job. Neither did his friend, Mathew Filius, also a St. Paul native of Hispanic heritage who applied at the same time. Like Villanueva, Filius alleges that he was shut out after revealing he was born in St. Paul.
The pair's lawyer, Nicholas May, acknowledges that it's highly unusual for Americans to be discriminated against for being born in the U.S. But, he insists, "the basic premise is the same: You don't stereotype based on what their race is or where they're from."
The lone defendant in the case is Ervin Grulkowski, owner of the downtown St. Paul McDonald's franchise in question. He has yet to respond to the lawsuit, and couldn't be reached for comment.
Though the case is an oddity, May says he hopes it sends a message: "If it demonstrates anything, it's that no type of stereotyping is acceptable." —Jonathan Kaminsky
If Lou Dobbs was a city councilman
Sometimes you need to know when to shut the hell up. Unfortunately for St. Francis City Councilman LeRoy Schaffer, it was a lesson he learned only recently.
Last week, residents called for Schaffer's resignation after he shouted at a KSTP broadcaster, went on a tirade about immigration reform, and made what some say were racist comments on TV.
"He behaved like a maniac," says resident Melissa Jabas, who called for the councilman's ouster at the meeting. "If you watch the clip, he's got, like, spit on his lip," she added. "He was just yelling and screaming."
KSTP showed up at Schaffer's home after he filed a report with the local police that "illegal aliens" were working on a neighbor's roof. He knew they were "illegal" because they "didn't speak English." According to the report, Schaffer continues: "They probably crossed the Rio Grande...and I don't blame them. I would swim as fast as I could, too."
Defending himself on camera, Schaffer tried to make a point about the nation's current immigration crisis, but ended up digging himself into an even deeper hole.
"I'm tired of looking the other way, sir," he shouted into the camera. "I'm tired of Mr. and Mrs. America looking the other way."
This is not the first time Schaffer's loose lips have gotten him into trouble. Last December, the council censored him for making inappropriate sexual remarks to a woman during a city event. (Maybe he did learn his lesson, because he didn't return our call for comment.)
"I don't actually think he's a racist, I just think he's not very bright," says Jabas. "He gets misunderstood, and then he gets defiant and misbehaves even more. As a resident, I'm appalled and embarrassed."
Nonetheless, the lead vote getter in the city's 2006 election refuses to resign. True to form, Schaffer grumbled to TV cameras that he wasn't going anywhere.
"As for the ones that want me to surrender, nuts," he said.
"You're not going to resign?," the reporter asked.
"Nuts," he responded. "You got it." —Beth Walton
Cutbacks come to MPR
The anemic economy has hit the media industry particularly hard, and public radio is no exception. Longtime Minnesota Public Radio reporter Art Hughes is the first to feel the brunt of the station's cutbacks. The affable newsman will end his 12-year run with the company on June 27.
When asked if he was laid off, Hughes demurred saying, "Sort of. The effect is the same. But no, I resigned."
As for his boss, news director Bill Wareham, he declined to comment on the issue. "That sort of questioning is out of my pay scale to answer," Wareham said, jokingly. "I can't comment on personnel issues."
Communications manager Jennifer Haugh gave us the silent treatment before parroting the same line about personnel issues, albeit with a sharp and slightly annoyed tone of voice.
Sources close to MPR said that while Hughes's departure is due to cutbacks, he isn't part of the layoffs that will soon begin coming down from on high. Our sources add that MPR employees are freaked out about the dismissals, so if news reports sound a little choppy, cut them some slack: Each report they file could be their last.
Hughes declined to comment further on the nature of his dismissal, but said he plans to take a break. "I'll spend some time with my family," he says. "Then I'll get back to work...somewhere else." —Bradley Campbell
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