Last Thursday, immigrants across the country stayed home from work and school to protest a recent spate of deportations and demonstrate their importance to the U.S. economy. While it’s impossible to say exactly how many people participated, scores of businesses, including restaurants, closed for the day — either in support of striking employees, or because they were short-handed — and there were other consequences, too: At least a few participants lost their jobs.
Twelve employees at the aptly named I Don’t Care Bar & Grill in Catoosa, Oklahoma were fired after staying home from work on Thursday, KTUL reports, in an incident that’s going viral thanks to the owner’s decision to do it via text message.
“You and your family are fired ... I hope you enjoyed your day off and you can enjoy many more. Love you,” owner Bill McNally wrote in a text.
At least some of the workers, who are all Hispanic, had been employed at the restaurant since it first opened two years ago. McNally claims the decision had nothing to do with politics, saying in a written statement that the restaurant has a “zero tolerance policy for no show/no call incidents.” The restaurant posted a help wanted ad for cooks and dishwashers the same day.
In a development that’s seemingly become de rigueur when a restaurant makes headlines for any kind of controversial incident, IDC’s Yelp page has now been flooded with one-star reviews: “What a horrible place to spend your hard earned money,” one reviewer wrote. “The owners obviously don't give two shits about their workers.” Folks on the other side of the political divide are firing back with their own reviews defending the restaurant. The restaurant’s Yelp photos are now polluted with stock images of people vomiting and photos of KKK members, as well as racist memes and images of the Confederate flag.
Social media nastiness aside, the incident raises some bigger questions — such as, can non-union workers legally be fired for participating in such a strike? As the Atlantic reports, some groups, such as the Colorado Restaurant Association, have warned restaurants against firing workers who participated in the immigrant strike due to the possibility of being hit with unfair labor practice charges. But according to the National Labor Relations Board, since immigration policies are not directly related to employers, businesses can discipline their workers as they would normally.
But while restaurants like I Don’t Care Bar & Grill may be in the clear legally, the PR nightmare that results from such a situation is perhaps reason enough to steer clear — even for businesses who don’t feel the need to stand in solidarity with their immigrant employees.