Colorado Restaurant Association Alerts Members to Day Without Immigrants

Mark Antonation
Both locations of Maria Empanada, including the new one in the Tech Center, will be closed tomorrow.
UPDATE: Reports are coming in about restaurants that will be closed on Thursday, February 16, in order to observe A Day Without Immigrants. Among them: Adelitas and its sibling, Palenque (their owner, Brian Rossi, is the focus of the new Chef and Tell), and the restaurant right next door at 1298 South Broadway, Maria Empanada, as well as the second location in the Denver Tech Center.

"Maria Empanada is an American business founded by an immigrant who sought out a better life in this amazing country. Our story is the story of the American Dream — a dream made possible thanks to the hard work and grit of many people who also came here with the same intense work ethic and the spark of possibility in their eyes. Without them, our restaurant would simply not run," says owner Lorena Cantarovici. "Maria Empanada’s employees — the face and backbone of the brand — yearn to participate in this beautiful and most American process of peaceful protest, democracy and, most importantly, knowing that we live in a country where all voices are important. We believe diversity is what makes our family, our brand, great — and that is exactly why we stand with them today, and every day. To our customers who rely on our baked goods, we hope you’ll support our family, too. We’ll see you back here when we reopen tomorrow Friday, February 17."

Several restaurants in Breckenridge will also be closed tomorrow.

Original story posted at 7:09 this morning: Cities across the country are preparing for A Day Without Immigrants, a grassroots action set for Thursday, February 16, which calls for members of immigrant communities — primarily Latino (in some places, it's billed as A Day Without Latinos), but not limited to that — to walk out of work (or simply stay home that day) to protest the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

Word of the protest is spreading via fliers and Facebook, including a Day Without Immigrants events page that reads:
No Work
No Opening of our Businessess
No Shoping in stores or online
No Restaurant Dining
No Buying of even gasoline
No Kids in school

Prepare to stay home. We will loose a day of work. But we can gain so much more.

Dear Mr. President - without us, without our support this nation will be paralyzed.

In other cities, some owners have already decided to close restaurants and businesses for the day. The rumblings have just started in Denver, where many eateries, hotels and other enterprises rely on immigrant employees (whether legal or not), but they're already loud enough that the Colorado Restaurant Association sent out an "Urgent Immigration Protest Update" on February 14 noting, among other things, that employees have a legal right to protest.

Here's the memo:

Dear CRA Members:

We have been informed by the National Restaurant Association as well as several of our members in Colorado that there will be potential employee walkouts as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” protest on Thursday, February 16. We are told that these protests are intended to highlight immigration issues and the proposed policy stances of the Trump Administration. Organizers are encouraging workers not to show up for work or to walk out of their jobs on Thursday.

First, we want you to be aware of this, and second, we want you to be prepared in advance. Obviously, as the business owner, you need to do what you think is most appropriate for your business.

Some thoughts to consider include:

1. Do you know if any of your staff is planning to protest? If so, can you find backup?

2. You may want to consider offering a less labor-intensive menu for the day.

3. Your employees have a legal right to protest. However, you are not obligated to pay non-exempt employees who are not working. You do need to be careful about exempt employees (reducing pay for the hours not worked could result in a loss of their exempt status). However, we don’t advise that you discipline employees on top of that. You don’t want to do or say anything that could be interpreted as a threat.

To cite one of our Labor Attorney Partners, Fisher & Phillips, in an article they wrote about protests in November:

What Do You Need To Know?

In advance of widespread protest activity … we recommend you plan ahead. As part of your plan, you should understand that this is a highly technical area of the law involving subtle fact-sensitive distinctions between lawful and unlawful conduct, but with significant ramifications from a remedial standpoint. Add to the mix the fact that the body of law governing this field is in a constant state of flux and ever-evolving, and you have the potential for a highly combustible situation. For these reasons, we encourage you to consult labor counsel before embarking on any specific directives in this area.

Workers May Be Protected By Federal Law

First and foremost, you need to recognize that the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] protects all workers who engage in lawful concerted activity for the purposes of mutual aid and protection. This applies to unionized and non-unionized workforces alike. Any worker who takes or seeks to initiate an action among a group of employees about work-related issues, or brings complaints about the workplace to management, is covered under the statute. Therefore, if you take adverse action against these workers for their concerted, protected activity, you could face an unfair labor practice charge. You should not discipline workers for engaging in this concerted, protected activity. In fact, the unions and worker advocates may actually be eager for you to slip up and drop the disciplinary hammer on protestors, using your actions as an example to make workers into martyrs for their cause.

Please let us know if you experience any protest activity on Thursday so we can report back to the National Restaurant Association.

The Colorado Restaurant Association has long been in support of responsible immigration reform. We believe that immigrants are an important part of our workforce, and we support an immigration policy that includes a pathway to citizenship.

Sonia Riggs
CRA President & CEO
There's another Day Without Immigrants slated for April; the Facebook page notes that it's not related to the February 16 event but supports it.

Denver last saw a big Day Without Immigrants protest on May 1, 2006.  Given the current political climate, the 2017 version could grow far beyond that action.