Restaurant workers take part in 'Day Without Immigrants' protest | News | Palo Alto Online |


Restaurant workers take part in 'Day Without Immigrants' protest

Employees strike to show their impact on the nation's economy

Customers around Palo Alto may notice fewer employees and longer wait times at restaurants where workers observed a national "Day Without Immigrants" on Thursday, protesting recent actions from the federal government on immigration.

The loosely organized demonstration that spread word through social media asks workers to go on a one-day strike to demonstrate the impact immigrants have on the nation's economy.

Rob Robertson, general manager at Il Fornaio on Cowper Street, was running on minimal staff at the Italian restaurant. He normally doesn't come in on Thursdays, but today was an exception today due to an estimated 30 workers such as dishwashers and servers who said ahead of time that they would observe the action.

The restaurant chain, which has locations in the Bay Area, Southern California, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, hasn't taken an official stance on the action, but Robertson said it appears they're "passively supporting it" and won't penalize participating workers.

"Everybody's entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, that much I certainly respect," he said.

Customers may expect longer wait times and can't make reservations at Il Fornaio. They'll also see a posted sign stating the restaurant is short-staffed and offering a reduced menu (the only change is no pizza station during lunch) because of the protest.

It was too early to say how business would be affected for the day, though Robertson said he doesn't think the restaurant will see major repercussions when it comes to finances. There may be minimal impacts to lunch, but there may be fewer dinner sales, he said.

On University Avenue, chef Augustus Remo of La Strada Ristorante Italiano was scrambling to prepare food in time for the 11:30 a.m. opening. He was still figuring out what to put on the restaurant's limited menu, which would likely include sandwiches and other dishes they can pull together.

Remo wasn't sure how many people didn't show up for work at the family-owned business or if they were observing the protest, but he himself was supportive of the effort.

One employee at Howie's Artisan Pizza at Town & Country Village and several at Pizzeria Delfina on Emerson Street did not come into work today, according to their respective owners Howard Bulka and Craig Stoll.

Tacolicious, a San Francisco Mexican restaurant with a location in downtown Palo Alto, supported employees who chose to observe the strike and plan to donate the day's proceeds from their Emerson Street outpost and four others to the American Civil Liberties Union, the company's marketing director Sara Deseran said.

All employees have showed up today at the chain's Palo Alto eatery, but their San Francisco patrons can anticipate fewer staff and a limited menu, said Deseran, who added she'll likely end up washing dishes to alleviate the work backlog.

Deseran and her husband, Tacolicious founder Joe Hargrave, saw the protest gain momentum leading up to today but elected not to close their restaurants as they recognized some of their staff members still want to work.

Customers can expect to see a letter printed in English and Spanish at their five locations addressing the protest.

"Today represents a chance for our employees to make a statement about California's powerful and irreplaceable immigrant workforce -- without which, we all know, there would be no restaurant business (not to mention the supply chain that delivers all of our products)," the statement reads.

The restaurant is upset with the decisions President Donald Trump's administration has made regarding immigrants, who have a long history of joining the workforce in many industries, and would like to see policy changes that will support their employees, Deseran said.

Workers are the backbone of the restaurant industry, which includes not just those who serve customers and work in the kitchen but also the people employed by their vendors, such as their tortilla makers and shippers, she said.

"We try not to be too political, but I feel things have gotten to the point where to not be political is to not be American," she said.


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9 people like this
Posted by Wondering??
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:10 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Wondering 2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:20 pm

[Post removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by bannon
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 2:31 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

54 people like this
Posted by Mike-Crescent Park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 16, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Mike-Crescent Park is a registered user.

How disingenuous this article is, and perhaps the organizing protest movement too. This is not about highlighting the contribution of immigrants. That's well known and has been for over 200 years. The tech workforce of Silicon Valley comprises a vast number of immigrants. If it were clearly about immigrants many of them would have participated. This is about illegal immigrants. Why can't this article state that? If you support them why don't you stop masking this as an immigration issue? It is not.

42 people like this
Posted by Jason R
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 16, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Jason R is a registered user.

1. I'm surprised that Mike's post hasn't been censored. I guess the moderator hasn't gotten to it yet?

2. Clearly, is censoring any kind of political discussion that is Trump-related.
Personally, I think its healthier let posters have at it.
Censorship is disturbing (not all of us are so easily offended and would like to debate and hear what the other side has to say) but hey, its your website.
I suppose the comments section is not meant as a discussion forum., its moderators and the people who own it CLEARLY want this newspaper to function as a one-way opinion outlet. That's okay.

3. Do we need to start a new conservative Palo Alto newspaper that does not automatically censor our views? It would be very good for the community, but I don't know if there are enough conservatives in Palo Alto.

4. I will refrain from visiting, reading the articles here, or posting on the forum any more because this website is un-American in its suppression of free speech.

5. [Portion removed.]

35 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2017 at 11:33 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

This "strike" was ridiculous. As an immigrant, I have never felt that this nation was against me. In fact, I feel like this nation is welcoming of immigrants. The problem is with ILLEGAL immigration.

I feel that it is wrong for foreign nationals in this country illegally to demand that the people of our nation (and, yes, I said OUR nation -- because I hold no loyalty or allegiance to the nation of my birth) ignore its own immigration laws to accommodate them.

Every nation -- including Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America -- enforces their own immigration policies. If you've ever visited Mexico, you're aware of this.

The problem is that conciliation and catering to the demands of foreign nationals doesn't fix the problems for which millions of citizens of Mexico, Latin America and other nations flee their own borders.

Mexico encourages illegal immigrants because the corrupt "who's who" in the country doesn't want change. They don't want to reform. They don't want the responsibility of changing their government, laws, economy or ways of life out of a need to take care of millions of their own citizens.

Bill Clinton promised that NAFTA would help stifle illegal immigration because there would be more jobs in Mexico and a new "middle class" would arise. [Portion removed due to factual inaccuracies.]

It is easy to dismiss the problems with illegal immigration in Northern California. However, the Rio Grande Valley (where my family resides) and the rest of south Texas is currently feeling the weight of this crisis.

Apologists for illegal immigration often claim that these immigrants will "do the jobs that no one else will do." If that is true, then why don't other nations have a problem finding agricultural or fast-food workers?

We were legal residents of the United States and we did that work. We knew many other migrant farm workers who did that work and almost all of them were legally in the United States.

When we first moved to the United States, most fast food restaurants were employed by high school students, college students, retirees or second-income earners. During high school, I worked in fast food while I was attending school. During college and grad school, I knew plenty of students who worked on or off campus in restaurants or other service jobs.

Unfortunately, many people are taking those jobs now -- especially away from the border. Many of them are using stolen identities to do so. As someone who has had to deal with ID theft, it is a difficult and frustrating thing to go through. It affects credit, financial aid, employment and even voting. My mother has been turned away twice at the polls because she was informed that she "already voted." Who voted in her place?

Don't mistake this disdain for illegal immigration as a lack of empathy for those wanting to get her. One chronic PaloAltoOnline poster mocked me repeatedly claiming that I "got mine" and don't want others to "get theirs." That is untrue, hateful and incredibly offensive.

Illegal immigration cheapens what my family worked so hard for. My dad saved money and spent much time -- even as a "middle class" worker in Mexico -- to immigrate to the United States. He believed in America and in the American Dream. It wasn't just about money, entitlements, etc. My dad believed in what America represents. We immediately felt loyalty to this nation than we did Mexico -- despite many hardships that we endured.

That said: We feel empathy for those who would want to move here. In fact, I believe in what Mr. Trump said during one campaign address where he talked about immigration reform. He mentioned the goal to reform immigration based upon the needs of this nation. If more agricultural workers are needed, then more workers should be granted H-1B visas to reach full employment in that sector. If unemployment is high for engineers, then fewer H-1B visas should be granted to foreign workers from that sector.

In other words, work visas would be granted based upon the needs of the American workers rather than a corporation's need for cheaper labor costs or convenience. America cannot afford to be the world's drop off. We should certainly take in those yearning to be free -- but they have to be open to the idea of a free society and loyal to America first. The motivation should not be about money or entitlements.

One of my pet peeves is when I see people in this nation illegally proudly displaying the Mexican flag out of some sort of cultural loyalty. It is difficult for me to comprehend how someone can demand entry and residency in this nation [portion removed] yet show more loyalty to the Mexican flag than the American flag. As someone who has sworn allegiance to the United States, the Mexican flag now means as little to me as the flag of Canada, France or Argentina. [Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 17, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"If more agricultural workers are needed, then more workers should be granted H-1B visas to reach full employment in that sector."

The hard reality is that most employers prefer the "undocumented" option, where they can wield the threat of deportation to pay substandard wages in harsh work conditions.

In the real world The Marketplace trumps The Law. Thus all purported attempts to solve the US immigration "problem" are scripted to quietly fade away after a few showcase raids conducted with great fanfare.

Note BTW my contrarian use of "undocumented" instead of "illegal." The former commonly designates outside-the-law workers of European origin--like the famous Trump Tower work crew DJ Trump imported sub-rosa from Poland; the latter is codetalk for Mexican origin. Anybody else noticed that?

15 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@Curmudgeon - I understand why some people eschew the use of the term "illegal immigrants." However, I have no problem with someone being labeled an "illegal immigrant" -- because that is a description of what they are.

I feel that it is a much better description than "undocumented immigrant" because it ignores the typical understanding that such individuals ignore immigration law and willingly break it. A person can be an illegal immigrant from Canada, China, Mexico, Guatemala or Norway. I don't see any connotation that it refers to someone of Mexican origin -- and I say this as someone of Mexican origin (both in nationality and ethnicity).

As someone who performed migrant farm labor for most of my youth and even adulthood, I never once saw farmers favor illegal immigrants or use their hiring techniques as a weapon for lower wages. Near all of the families and individuals that we knew on the farms were legal residents. We were paid the same (which is why families were important -- the more hands, the more production and the bigger payout). Of course, this is from my own experiences. Others may have had other experiences. We worked primarily in states like Michigan, Arkansas, Kansas, Indiana, etc.; and, we never worked fields in California.

Still, even if that "hard reality" were true, then it can still be easily remedied by the law. The requirement of an e-verification system attached to every W-2 can go a long way in targeting those who hire illegal immigrants or those who use fraud (e.g., identity theft, false identities, etc.) for employment purposes. This is especially true if the H-1B system was better regulated according to the employment needs of each sector. If more agricultural workers are needed, then more temporary work visas can be granted. Those who follow the law with those temporary visas could be favored when they apply for permanent residency.

Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2017 at 10:54 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"The requirement of an e-verification system attached to every W-2 can go a long way in targeting those who hire illegal immigrants ... ."

An anonymous freelance international labor pool gets employers around those bureaucratic regulations. They like that. It's one of the major Free Market incentives that brings willing employees across the border to hook up with willing employers.

No surprise that government bureaucrats and their allies would attack this Free Market system, disguised as law enforcement. But the Free Market will win. It always has.

4 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

I had two posts deleted that simply explained how the rate of illegal immigration has increased considerably since NAFTA was signed. I included five sources to validate this fact.

The free market -- including the ability to trade internationally -- is wonderful. However, the free market is constrained by rules within each country. The same is true with immigration. The market, opportunities and, of course, entitlements vary from country to country. There is no true international equality in the free market just as there the notion of "opportunity" varies from nation to nation.

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"However, the free market is constrained by rules within each country."

In the liberal pro-regulation view, yes. In the conservative theory, the free market is supreme, with laws being designed to support and facilitate it.

But in conservative practice, bigotry trumps everything. Thus the apostasy to squelch "illegal" immigration under the free market, economic consequences be damned.

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