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Immigration Protest: Support Local Businesses That Support Their Workers

February 16, 2017 • 3 min read
Ro Prakash

Ro Prakash

Co-founder

Yesterday and today, an impromptu protest is happening across the nation. A Day without Immigrants highlights the positive effect on that immigrants have in all our communities. Small businesses are the engine of the American economy and many of those businesses are driven by immigrant workers. In the restaurant industry, for example, one of the main sectors affected by the protest, immigrants make up the majority of employees—up to 70 percent in places like New York and Chicago.

Despite the notoriously thin profit margin in the restaurant industry, many owners are supporting those workers who are choosing to take part in the protest, by closing, donating the day’s profits to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), or something else.

Our Bay Area community managers spoke with several local restaurants participating in or supporting their staff’s participation in the protest.

For many, it isn’t simply a matter of recognizing the value that immigrants provide their businesses. It’s a question of family.

Nelson German, owner of Oakland’s AlaMar Restaurant, said, “Other than a job, that is what we provide for each other here: positive energy and a close-knit family.”

AlaMar's notice of Day Without Immigrants closure

“We chose to participate because my whole team and I want to honor our families who came from other countries to bring us here,” he added. “Standing with our community and honoring our roots is morally more important than thinking about profit.”

For Chris and Jana Pastina, too, owners of Oakland’s Calavera, Chop Bar, and Lungomare, solidarity with their workers is an ethical imperative, and they encouraged their staff to participate in the strike. Solidarity didn’t mean closing, however, “as some of our staff (who are in solidarity with the strike) are not in a position to take a day without pay. We limited our menu to accommodate those who are participating.”

Like some other local establishments, the Pastinas are donating a portion of the day’s proceeds to the ACLU.

“All of the restaurant owners we know either chose to close or are doing something similar to what we are doing,” they said, noting that the “atmosphere over the last few weeks has been one of apprehension and uncertainty.”

AlaMar’s German has had the same experience. “Among my fellow business owners, we all agreed to stand in solidarity for this cause.”

Both restauranteurs remain optimistic. The Pastinas said, “We have been brainstorming ways to protect our teams. We remain hopeful that if we all work together, we can fight against the injustices that we see unfolding before our eyes.”

For German, “It’s an amazing feeling being able to speak with other small business owners and inspire each other.”

Like these small business owners, Townsquared believes in community, and we know that local businesses like these are at the heart of strong communities. We support those businesses who have chosen—at significant cost—to stand with their workers.

If your favorite restaurant or café closed in solidarity or otherwise supported the strike, remember not only how important these workers are to our economy but also that they are part of the family of some of your favorite businesses. It’s more important than ever to show your support for your local businesses, and especially those being targeted by the current administration.

These are the Bay Area Townsquared members we know have participated. Make sure to #LoveLocal and support these folks working to make your community safer for everyone, and more delicious!

Local Eater City pages have lists of participating restaurants and cafés—eat local!

Read more about how A Day without Immigrants affected restaurant owners and staff across the country at Eater and CNN. Learn more about the Sanctuary Restaurants movement and why Bay Area restaurant owners are registering.

Special thanks to our East Bay community managers, Kira Pascoe and Tina Ramos, for their contribution!


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