The difference, says Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), a nonprofit dedicated to the rights of restaurant workers, is that this strike has a much broader mission. “We are calling for better recognitions and dignity for all affected by the agenda of President Trump,” she told Fortune, adding that the Trump administration’s anti-immigration rhetoric will be on many protestors’ minds.
Beyond protests, ROC has partnered with the Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers’ Rights (PAUWR), an organization created by restaurant owners and chefs, to fund their national “Right2Work” dinner tour. The first dinner kicks off Monday in New York City, where ROC and PAUWR hope to create a space for guests to discuss the reality immigrant workers face today.
Local business owners who have caught wind of the tour are starting to take action, too. Francis Cretarola, a Philadelphia restauranteur, hosted a “sanctuary supper” in March to help PAUWR fundraise for their dinner tour. He closed two of his restaurants on May Day in solidarity with his staff and striking workers around the country, as well.
Cretarola acknowledged that these actions come with a potential financial risk — not just by closing business for a day, but also by putting off customers not interested in his politics over the long-term. In the end he decided it was worth it.
“Every once in a while you start to go into your fetal position and be a little worried about what the impact to your business is going to be, but then something happens that make you realize that you have a moral imperative — that there is something much larger,” he said.
Jayaraman herself is hopeful that large crowds from both nationwide protests and Right2Work dinners, which will feature guest speakers and panels, make it clear to the administration that these workers are here to stay.
“There are tens of thousands of people going on strike,” she said. “We are bringing this to national attention.”