Senator Alexander Pushes English Only Workplace Bill

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Knoxville (WVLT) - US Senator Lamar Alexander is pushing legislation that would require English-only speaking in the workplace, if the business chooses.

Volunteer TV's Kim Bedford spoke with Knoxville businesses and Senator Alexander for a closer look.

Senator Lamar Alexander intends to introduce legislation into the Senate that may require employees to speak English, without the business being sued for discrimination.

"A business, if it chooses to, may want to make sure for safety reasons, whatever reason, that the employees speak in a common language," Sen. Alexander says.

"Employers ought to be able to make their own decisions about that," Garrett Wagley with the Knoxville Chamber says Alexander's proposal only makes sense. "There are a lot of folks who've moved to the United States over the past 200 years who didn't speak English, but integrated into society and learned to speak English because they knew it would make themselves able to make more money."

People like Bo Hadjerioua, who was born in France, but now works at TVA. "If I say that, okay, I was born in France and I need to speak French here, I cannot do my work speaking French, so I have to learn English and use that language only."

But not everyone agrees with the English-only proposal.

"It kind of strikes me as being opposite of what America is kind of all about. I mean, I've always thought of this country as a melting pot," Jeff Gencay is a volunteer worker at the Village Marketplace here on Market Square, where most everything they sell is from third world countries. "It would probably be detrimental to us. We kind of welcome, just by the nature of our store, the diversity of other cultures."

Gencay says some of their employees speak other languages, and Alexander's proposal is discriminating.

"English only in the workplace is not discrimination. It just makes common sense to speak English in the workplace," Alexander says.

Alexander also plans to re-introduce a $500 voucher into legislation for any adult who needs help learning English.

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  • by keith Location: knoxville on May 13, 2007 at 01:07 PM
    This is the kind of thing that redneck yahoos really go for. A way to make it harder on those who are different. I work in a fast food restaurant, and if such regulation were passed, we would lose a bunch of people who are willing to work hard for $6-7 an hour. It takes a long time to learn a language. What are they supposed to do? Meanwhile, you know who we would have to replace them with? We would have to look really hard, because nobody else bothers to apply. High-school students do not usually make very good employees, their availability is too limited, and a good many of them are very irresponsible. The people who this type of legislation is aimed at take jobs that very few others want. They should be allowed to pull their own weight.
  • by Trace Location: East Tennessee on May 9, 2007 at 05:57 AM
    I agree with the English only! Americans speak English. If you want to live in America, speak their language! "Americans" are fast becoming the minority. You can't call hardly any place of business and get someone who speaks English!
  • by Al Location: Knoxville, TN on May 8, 2007 at 07:08 PM
    I agree completely with Senator Alexander's proposal. I have friends from other countries, two in particular one from Cuba and one from Mexico, and they also agree. They both speak English, one is a State Senator in Colorado, the other is a State Senator in Florida. I have sent them a link to your web page, and they have contacted me and related their opinions to me.


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