Last week's "A Day Without Immigrants" protest was meant to give the nation a taste of what it might look like without immigrants working in its restaurants. But now, in at least a handful of kitchens and dining rooms the country, people no longer have to guess. Dozens of restaurant workers—and of course, employees of other industries—have been fired for participating in the protest, CNN reports.
Many restaurant owners stood by and up for their immigrant employees on Feb. 16, giving workers a free pass to play (meaningful) hooky or even closing down for the day in support. Notably, chef José Andrés announced on Twitter he would join the protest by not opening five of his restaurants—at least the second time the chef has openly opposed President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
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But other restaurant owners didn't support the protest, opting to stay open for the day and firing immigrant workers who didn't show up for their shifts. According to CNN, Bill McNally, owner of I Don't Care Bar and Grill in Catoosa, Oklahoma, fired 12 line cooks when they took the day off without letting him know they'd be gone.
"We have rules at I Don't Care Bar and Grill," McNally told CNN. "If you're going to be late, call in. If you're not coming to work, call us. That's the American way."
McNally faced backlash over his decision, sparking a somewhat heated debate that played out on the restaurant's Facebook page. Some customers promised they'll never return to the restaurant, while others strongly supported McNally's firings.
"As owner, you have set policies and fired employees," one user wrote. "That is your right. However, you missed the larger picture. What you fired were not employees who did not show up. You fired employees who are willing to fight for their principles, and yours." But as another user succinctly said, "They didn't call or show up for work, [and] they deserve to be fired."
Six of the fired line cooks told a CNN affiliate that they feel as if they were unfairly treated, and that they didn't know they'd risk their jobs by joining the protest.
"[They're] upset they stood for something they felt was necessary so the community would stand together, and they got terminated for that," a translator said for them.
In New York City, Ben's Kosher Delicatessen owner Ronnie Dragoon said he fired one immigrant employee because of the protest—but only because the employee was trying to talk other workers into walking out on Feb. 16.
"All other employees involved with the walkout were, and still are, invited to return to their positions with the company," the local restaurant chain told CNN.
Of course, it wasn't just restaurant owners who fired immigrants after the protest. Other business owners in various industries also axed employees who participated and who didn't show up to work.
Jim Serowski, founder of JVS Masonry in Commerce City, Colorado, told CNN that he knew several of his employees would skip work in favor of the protest. He warned them they would be fired if they didn't report to their shift on time—and he ultimately fired some 30-odd workers.
"If you're going to stand up for what you believe in, you have to be willing to pay the price," Serowski said.