On February 16, immigrants across the U.S. stayed away from work as part of the protest “A Day Without Immigrants.” Employees and employers gave up wages and profits in protest of the immigration policies of the Trump administration, hoping to show American consumers what an economy without immigrant labor would mean for the services and goods many rely on. A handful of restaurants printed messages of solidarity on customer receipts:
Some employers, including restaurant and business owners in at least 10 major cities, showed support for their workers who joined the walkout. But others were less sympathetic. CNN reported that a number of participants in the protests were fired in the fallout of “A Day Without Immigrants.” Bricklayers in Commerce City, Colorado, boat manufacturing workers in Lexington, South Carolina, and employees of a painting company in Nashville, Tennessee all lost their jobs for joining the protest. Twelve employees at the I Don’t Care Bar and Grill in Catoosa, Oklahoma were reportedly fired via text message, with the restaurant’s owner defending the firings as company policy for no-shows. (A neighboring restaurant offered jobs to those fired, citing the demand for experienced restaurant workers.)
Business owners, and their attorneys, have been careful to characterize the firings as a matter of company policy. In a statement, Bradley Coatings, the Tennessee paint company, said that the company did not receive adequate notice from its employees regarding the walkout: “The reason these employees missed work—to engage in peaceful demonstrations—had nothing to do with [Bradley Coatings]’s decision to terminate them.” JVS Masonry, the company in Colorado, cited similar reasoning, though the now-former employees maintain that they had obtained permission to take the day off.