If your favorite local restaurant or store is closed today, Thursday Feb. 16, chances are it is because of a national campaign called Day Without Immigrants (hashtag #daywithoutimmigrants), which aims to highlight, through a strike, the contributions of immigrants to the US.
The movement was prompted by President Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes a call to seal the U.S. border with Mexico and a — now frozen — travel ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries. The food industry is particularly reliant on legal immigrants.
Hamei Hamedifard of Café Venezuela wrote to Berkeleyside to say the restaurant, at 2056 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, would not be open today in support of Day Without Immigrants.
“Legal immigrants make up a huge part of the restaurant industry and it’s important to bring about awareness to current issues,” he said. “Our neighbor La Marcha is participating as well. I decided to join in solidarity after talking to Sergio at La Marcha (one of the owners).”
Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen is also closed today. The decision was actually unplanned, according to Tauna LaMere at the North Berkeley Jewish deli. “Our staff walked out responsibly, closing things up before leaving for the day,” she told Berkeleyside. And Soop, at 1511 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, is also closed to support Day Without Immigrants.
Inside Scoop is updating a list of Bay Area restaurants taking part in the initiative. East Bay spots on the list at the time of writing include Bar Cesar, B-Dama, Cosecha Café, Miss Ollie’s, Nido, Luka’s Taproom and Doña Tomas, all in Oakland; Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café in Emeryville; Prima in Walnut Creek, and La Marcha, Tacubaya and Los Cilantros in Berkeley. An Eater SF map of participating restaurants includes Zut on Berkeley’s Fourth Street.
Sam’s Log Cabin is also closed today. The popular Albany restaurant posted a dramatic image on Instagram with the message that it would be shuttered “in observance of a day without an immigrant.” Also taking part: Café Trieste’s Piedmont Avenue location (Berkeley’s remains open), jam and preserve maker INNA Jam (who wrote on Instagram, “INNA Jam was founded by an immigrant and proudly employs immigrants”), Tamarindo Antojeria and BellyUptown.
Several celebrity chefs are taking part in the strike, including, according to CNN, José Andrés, who is involved in a lawsuit with the President for withdrawing his restaurant from Trump’s hotel project in Washington following Trump’s pronouncements over undocumented immigrants. And, in Chicago, Rick Bayless posted on Twitter that he would be closing Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco and Fonda Frontera “out of respect for staff’s vote to support Thursdays’ immigrant civil action.”
At co-working space WeWork in downtown Berkeley, where Berkeleyside has its office, workers who clean and take care of the building were not working Thursday. A message to members from the management read: “We ask all of you to bear with us as we support the rights of those who are protesting.”
Along with the closure of businesses, and in some cities schools, protests were planned for Thursday. The Los Angeles school district was urging students not to join in any walkouts or demonstrations planned for that city.
And the initiative has gained traction beyond the US. In the UK strikes were planned in part to protest racism affiliated to Brexit.
Restaurants and stores that have closed will be losing a day of business which is not an easy choice.
The one-day strike comes the day before the General Strike that is planned for Friday Feb. 17. Independent Berkeley bookstore Moe’s Books is taking part in that. In an email from Moe’s, Owen Hill wrote: “Our immediate reaction was to support this action in spirit, but it is difficult for a small business to forfeit even one day’s income. Still, after discussing this with the staff we have decided that we will close the store for the day. We do understand that not everyone can join the strike, but we urge you to spend some time on February 17 thinking about the state of the country, and that you consider resisting this regime in your own way.” Berkeley’s Eastwind Books is also closing Friday, “in solidarity with Moe’s and other businesses,” it told Berkeleyside.
Thursday afternoon the Berkeley Food Institute issued a statement declaring its solidarity for the #daywithoutimmigrants work boycott, writing: “The strike’s intention is to send a clear message about the impact immigrants have on our country every single day. In the food and agriculture space, this impact is enormous—immigrants not only grow, harvest, cook, and serve the food everyone eats, but more importantly, are and have always been leaders in agriculture and food across the nation. At UC Berkeley, our community of immigrants is leading cutting-edge research in food and agriculture, making our food systems more just and sustainable. Immigrants and children of immigrants make up the cultural and culinary fabric of our staff, our campus, and our nation. Immigrants contribute incredibly hard work, extensive knowledge, and innovations, yet are frequently underpaid, mistreated, and underrepresented in positions of power. This country relies on immigrants to function every day, and is made better, stronger, and more prosperous from their contributions.”
Follow the latest on the strike on Twitter at #DayWithoutImmigrants.
If you are closing your restaurant or business today, or tomorrow for the General Strike, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was updated after publication to include businesses that let us know they were participating in the strike.