A handful of restaurants around Madison are standing in solidarity with the Latino workforce. Some restaurants closed Monday; others had limited menus and abbreviated hours as a way to support their staff.
One quarter of the restaurant industry is Latino, according to the National Restaurant Association. To allow their employees to attend Milwaukee’s “Day Without Latinos” rally, all restaurants under the Food Fight Restaurant Group participated in some way in Monday’s day of action.
Two out of 19 restaurants closed completely, and other restaurants offered a smaller menu. In many cases, managers like Jose Garcia at Hubbard Avenue Dinner found themselves in the kitchen, working for their cooks and other staff members who took the day off to have their voices heard.
“These are hard times when people want to make a stand and I’m glad to be part of it in one way or another. Possibly not being there but helping people to be part of it,” Garcia said.
Hubbard Avenue Diner is not alone. Out of 1,100 employees, Latinos make up around 400 of Food Fight Restaurant Group’s staff. Eighteen other restaurants associated with Food Fight modified their schedules and menus to allow for their employees to participate in “Day Without Latinos.”
One of those restaurants, Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, provided a self-serve nacho bar to give their cooks the day off to attend the event in Milwaukee.
“We support everyone. This is not a political statement. This is a personal statement for the people who have helped us,” Food Fight’s Vice President of community relations Greg Frank said.
The company said employees of all backgrounds and ethnicities showed interest in participating in Monday’s events. While the restaurants may take a hit financially, Frank said investing in their staff is priceless .
“We are losing sales in some of our restaurants but we felt like it was more important to support the ability of our people to have their voices heard,” Frank said.
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association is also in support of it’s members’ participation in “Day Without Latinos.”
“The Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association has long been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. We support reforms that provide a strong and reliable verification process and allow a path to securing green cards. This should allow certainty to both operators and employees,” said Ed Lump, Restaurant Association president and CEO.
Garcia hopes their actions send a message of solidarity to both their employees and their customers.
“These times are very uncertain, so for us to stay together and to communicate to each other, is the most important thing,” he said.