DENVER — Many restaurant workers and others across Colorado plan to take part in a statewide protest Thursday.
“A Day Without Immigrants” involved immigrants and supporters planning to skip work and school, and they are planning to boycott all other businesses for 24 hours.
“We are behind construction of roads, we’re behind landscaping, we’re behind the food industry. We’re behind a lot of crucial parts of the economy. And if we’re just taken out, it’ll leave a dent,” undocumented immigrant and bartender Saul Mejia said.
He said the point of Thursday is to show how different Colorado would be without immigrants.
“Now you will see what it will be in the future, in the long run, if we are eventually taken out,” he said.
An estimated 50,000 workers in the state are estimated to be immigrants, according to the Colorado Restaurant Association, which is warning establishments about the protests.
“First, we want you to be aware of this, and second, we want you to be prepared in advance. Obviously, as the business owner, you need to do what you think is most appropriate for your business,” the memo said.
According to the CRA, as many as 50,000 food service workers in Colorado are immigrants to the United States. That number represents a quarter of the food service workforce statewide.
The memo advised restaurants to have backup plans in case staff members don’t show up, including finding other workers to cover shifts or offer a less labor-intensive menu for the day.
“Your employees have a legal right to protest,” the memo said.
It advises businesses that they are not obligated to pay nonexempt employees for missed hours.
“However, we don’t advise that you discipline employees on top of that. You don’t want to do or say anything that could be interpreted as a threat,” the memo said.
Several restaurants in Denver and Breckenridge have announced they will be closed for the protest.
“They know we’re part of their economy and I think it’s time for other people to realize that,” Mejia said.
Additionally, at least one small business in Lakewood is also planning to close.
“Yep, we’re going to lose a couple thousand dollars, but to me it’s worth it to stand behind them,” said Lowell Faulkner, owner of At Your Service Plumbing.
Faulkner said over the past decade he’s been in business, he and his wife have hired immigrants from eight countries and trained them all as plumbers.
“They’re honest. They show up to work every day,” he said. “You’ve got to judge people by the content of their heart, not the color of their skin.”