Earlier this month, we reported on the Yemeni-American bodega strike that saw thousands of NYC deli owners and workers shut down their businesses for a day of prayer and protest. Now, following last week's nationwide Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids, in which more than 600 people across 11 states were arrested, reports are emerging that numerous Washington, DC-based restaurants are preparing for a "Day Without Immigrants" strike to take place this Thursday.
The strike would be part of a movement that appears to be spreading across the US, and may culminate in a nationwide strike planned for April 28, organised by a group called A Day Without Immigrants. The strikes call on Latinos and immigrants to stay home from work in protest of President Trump's increasingly polarising stance on immigrants.
Information about Thursday's DC strike has spread through Facebook, Spanish-language flyers, and word of mouth. The plan is for immigrants to stay home from work and to stay out of stores, restaurants, gas stations, and schools—all in an effort to reveal the economic impact of an America without immigrants. "Mr. President, without us and without our contribution this country is paralysed," says one flyer.
Alfredo Solis, the chef and owner of El Sol Restaurante and Mezcalero Cocina Mexicana in Washington, DC, told MUNCHIES that he strongly believes in the strike and hopes his staff takes part. "I told my staff that I would pay them even if they go to the strike on Thursday," he said.
Solis, who was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the US when he was 19, is even willing to close both of his restaurants in solidarity. "I don't mind closing my two restaurants at all. I'm an immigrant myself and I need to support my community and I want to make sure my employees go out into the streets and protest." He added, "If enough of my staff ends up striking this Thursday like they are talking about, I will probably end up closing for the day, because most of the ones that want to strike are line cooks and not the front-of-house. My front-of-house staff are less sure if they will strike, because they live on tips and most of the money they make is from customers."
Still, Solis is not sure how many of his cooks will actually take off. "Not many of my staff have confirmed that they are taking part in the strike, but I would say around five people really want to take part. The rest of my staff are also talking about it, but after learning that the strike is only taking place in DC and that the nationwide strike is not until next month, they aren't so sure about taking off." He added, "Some want to wait until the nationwide strike to take off from work."
Micheline Mendelsohn, sister of celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn and the deputy CEO of the DC-based Sunnyside Restaurant Group, agrees that the strike may not gain traction. She told MUNCHIES, "Our employees have told us they are planning to come in," and that she is unaware of any employees planning to strike.
Solis says that some workers in the DC area have been warned by their bosses not to strike: "I spoke with other Latino friends yesterday who work in the restaurant industry—I won't tell you their names because they would get in trouble—and they said that all of their bosses told them they would get fired if they don't show up for work on Thursday."
Meanwhile, activists in other cities are hoping to rally workers to join the strike on Thursday. In Wilmington, NC, activist Maria Castillo told local news network WECT, "The United States need to know our presence is strong. We are here for a reason. We help the United States in a major way."
Restaurant workers in other cities have already expressed their displeasure at the President's policies. A "Day Without Latinos" rally took place this Monday in Milwaukee, WI. There, the rally was organised by Voces de la Frontera, which claimed on Twitter that more than 150 businesses closed and thousands attended a rally.
— Voces de la Frontera (@voces_milwaukee) February 13, 2017
If DC's strike is successful this Thursday, it could very well serve as a template for the nationwide strike scheduled to take place in April.