A Day Without Immigrants: When The Food Service Industry Speaks Out

As a resident of Washington, DC, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a protest or rally every week since Donald Trump became the 45th president. Last month, the Washington Post referred to this phenomenon as the “new brunch.” Recently, I received an alert from Meetup.com informing me of a new meetup group where individuals get lunch and head to a protest together. It is powerful that people are actively speaking out against the new administration. However, it’s even more powerful when business owners and employees take a stand.

Washington-based Chef José Andrés announced his restaurants in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia would close on Thursday, February 15th in support of the “A Day Without Immigrants” strike. Other restaurants plan to strike that day as well.

One criticism that stands out is that DC is a Democratic stronghold, and minds are unlikely to be changed by this (well-meaning) event. While this may very well be true, the action is important for a few different reasons.

Andrés vs. Trump 2016

Andrés has an interesting history with Trump. In December 2014 while plans for the Old Post Office Pavilion to become the International Trump Hotel were underway, Trump announced he would sign on Andrés to lead a restaurant in the hotel.

Following a petition that came in response to Trump’s racist remarks against Mexican immigrants in the summer of 2015, Andrés announced he would back out of the plan. Trump would sue Andrés for a breach of contract, to which Andrés countersue.  For Andrés, an immigrant from Spain, this is personal.

Nationwide

While sources like NPR, Fox 11 Los Angeles and Mother Jones have picked up the story, the strike is not unique to the District. Restaurants in the Dallas, New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas also plan to participate in a “Day Without Immigrants” of their own.

Regardless of the region where the protest is held,  many employees could be at risk for losing their jobs by not showing up to work- depending on their company’s policy.

Economic Reliance

As NPR explains, one in four restaurant employees is foreign-born. Most farmworkers in the United States are immigrants, and many of them are undocumented. By closing business for a day, it reminds the public that we are more reliant on immigrants than we realize. If immigrant restaurant workers suddenly don’t show up for a day at work at your favorite lunch spot, imagine the impact if they never returned.

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