A “Day Without Immigrants”
This past Thursday, February 16, 2017, immigrants took a stand by refusing to go to their jobs in protest of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies– which include the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The protest is meant to show what the country would be like without immigrants, with employees and employers giving up their wages and profits to protest, while consumers may find that the services and goods they rely on are unavailable and missed.
The protests occurred across the country, however, In D.C., where the day of action seems to have gotten the most traction, some 50 restaurants closed entirely in order to show support for their staff who are striking. The strikes aren’t limited to restaurants: Some daycare centers were closed, leaving parents to make last-minute childcare arrangements or miss work, and other markets and shops are either closed or operating at less-than-full capacity. The strike was intended to hit all businesses, but the restaurant industry — where immigrants make up nearly a quarter of the national workforce, according to the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University — seemed most affected. In response to the protests, more than 100 protestors across the country were fired from their jobs after skipping work to take part in last week’s “Day Without Immigrants” demonstration.
The legality of the firings remains a gray area and likely comes down to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). According to Charlotte Garden, an associate professor at the Seattle University School of Law and an expert in labor law, said, “The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects workers’ rights to engage in concerted activity for mutual aid or protection, and the scope of what falls under that umbrella is quite broad. So it is likely that some forms of worker protest about the likely effects of Trump Administration policies on immigrant workers would be protected. But that protection would not necessarily include every tactic that workers might use.” Garden explained that while it’s clear that employers can’t fire workers for talking about striking, it’s unclear whether missing work for the strike would be protected by the NLRA.
The recent NLRB appointments that will soon be made by President Trump will be more sympathetic to management. The newly appointed, sole Republican on the Board, Philip Miscimarra will serve as acting chairman of the NLRB. He is known for his disputes with the Board’s Democratic members, even issuing dissents to opinions he sees as more expansive than the National Labor Relations Act permits.