Colin McDonough will be working in the kitchen at the restaurant he owns on Thursday while nearly his entire kitchen staff is out for the day. McDonough said that to keep his restaurant open, he and a co-owner will flip burgers and make chicken wings themselves, sticking to the basic menu items they feel confident preparing.
Most of the kitchen staff at McDonough’s Boundary Stone restaurant in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood is made up of immigrants who will be on strike Thursday as part of the national “Day Without Immigrants” protest.
“It will be a very limited menu because we are not as talented as the people who normally work there,” said McDonough, who will be paying the employees who participate in the boycott. “We just got together and decided together as a team that it was a good idea on our part to give our team off to voice their concerns.”
Immigrants in D.C. and across the country plan to participate in the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a response to President Trump’s pledges to crack down on those in the country illegally, use “extreme vetting” and build a wall along the Mexican border. The social-media-organized protest aims to show the president the effect immigrants have in the country on a daily basis. The boycott calls for immigrants not to attend work, open their businesses, spend money or even send their children to school. The Washington region had the seventh-largest immigrant population in the country in 2010, with 21.8 percent of the population being foreign-born, according to a study from the Brookings Institution.
At least one D.C. charter school, LAMB Public Charter School, will be closed Thursday because staff members and students will be protesting. Some day cares will close or reduce their hours because employees are striking. Jubilee JumpStart day care in Adams Morgan is opening a half hour later in the morning and closing an hour earlier because about 50 percent of its classroom staff will be boycotting.
Dee Dee Parker Wright, executive director of Jubilee JumpStart, says that these are full-time staff members who have paid time off, so will still be paid on Thursday. She will be giving her part-time staffers, many of whom are also immigrants and do not get paid time off, more hours to fill-in for those striking.
“We don’t really have much of a choice because our folks have paid leave and we honor that,” Wright said. “Part of our mission is that we are community-based, and we know that our staff comes from the community and we try to support everybody in what’s fair and right.”
The chief of schools for D.C. Public Schools, John Davis, sent a note to principals in the school system saying that while many people may participate in the boycott, school will continue as normal and staff and students are expected to be in attendance.
“We highly value and are committed to fostering a learning environment where staff and students feel safe and secure and we respect the right to self-expression and peaceful protest,” the letter says.
Celebrity chef José Andrés, an immigrant from Spain, announced on Twitter that he will be closing some of his restaurants in the region because of the boycott — three Jaleo restaurants, Zaytinya and Oyamel. Andrés backed out of a contract in 2015 with Trump to open a restaurant inside D.C.’s Trump International Hotel after the then-presidential candidate called undocumented Mexican immigrants “criminals” and “rapists.” The two are still in the middle of a legal battle.
Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal, an Iraqi immigrant and progressive activist, will also shut all six of the restaurants throughout the region. He said the closures will be a “huge financial hit,” but added that “it’s an important” stance to take. All of his full-time and part-time employees have paid time off, and Shallal said they will be using that paid time on Thursday and have been supportive of his decision to close the restaurants.
“I realized I’m an immigrant too, and it is important for me to take that stand,” Shallal said. “I am in a position of power, and I realize that, and I am able to do this and I can be in solidarity with my staff.”
John Andrade, the principal owner of Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights, announced on Facebook that he would be closing the kitchen of his restaurant Thursday, though the bar will remain open and customers can bring in their own food. The kitchen at Brookland Pint, which Andrade also owns, will be closed.
“As a Latino business owner I stand in solidarity with all of my immigrant staff,” he wrote. “Therefore, we will close our kitchen this Thursday in support of our immigrant staff’s desire and right to protest the evolving state of immigration policies in our country.”
The popular Washington fast casual chain Cava Grill says it supports its workers right to protest and have worked with them to schedule time off. The chain will remain open, and has support staff ready to fill in when necessary as a “show of support for our frontline team members.”
Virtually the entire kitchen staff at El Chucho Mexican restaurant in Columbia Heights will be off.
Many other restaurants throughout the region will close Thursday. Those that remain open say they may not offer full menus because their suppliers could be affected by the boycott and they might not have a full kitchen staff.