Many Languages One Voice/Facebook
Many Languages One Voice/Facebook

A nonprofit called Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) is organizing another “Day Without Immigrants” strike and march for May 1. The date coincides with International Workers’ Day, plus it hits right around Donald Trump’s 100th day as president.

The majority of participating restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses are centered close to the group’s headquarters in Mount Pleasant. They include Don Juan’s, Ercilia’s Restaurant, Casa Lebrato, and Taqueria Los Compadres. But Florida Avenue Grill, Ana Restaurant, Jocelyn Restaurant Bar & Lounge, Catrachito’s Deli, and others are also partaking in various degrees. Most will be closed, some will pay employees should they choose to strike, and others are just giving their employees permission to participate without penalty. (The Feb. 16 strike shuttered many restaurants.)

The mission of MLOV is to support low-income immigrants in D.C. who do not speak English as their primary language through community organizing and advocacy. MLOV’s constituency includes many restaurant workers. While the majority of the group’s members living across D.C. are Latino, MLOV is partnering with organizations like the DC Justice for Muslims Coalition and BlackLivesMatter DC to reach diverse audiences.

MLOV’s reasons for mobilizing people on May 1 are manyfold, including fighting what it calls an anti-Muslim federal administration. The group cites calls for Muslim registration and travel bans, suspension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), mass deportations, privatization of education, anti-worker and anti-union policies, and proposed health care cuts.

Another demand asks for “just cause” firings for all. “We have a member who a few months ago was fired for asking why she wasn’t getting minimum wage,” MLOV Executive Director Sapna Pandya says. The worker was getting $8 an hour instead of $11.50. As we spoke, Pandya shared that other MLOV team members were meeting with a higher-up from Matchbox Food Group in the next room because five former employees of the group say they were fired in retaliation for speaking up about workers’ rights.

Pandya adds that they’re also striking and marching to protect the District’s status as a sanctuary city, asking Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stay away. “We’re tying to highlight, yes, the hatred and violence of federal administration, but also the quiet compliance of the mayor and city council,” Pandya says. She explains that D.C. has opportunities to pass legislation and better enforce existing laws that would impact immigrant life on a daily basis, such as fully funding the Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015 and adopting one standard D.C. identification card and driver’s license. 

Marchers will gather at Lamont Park at noon on May 1 for a short rally with a program of speakers. The plan from there is to head down 16th St. NW, stopping to converge with other demonstrations including Industrial Workers of the World and the DC March on May Day at Malcolm X Park. Continuing south, marchers will venture down 14th St. towards Freedom Plaza, where they expect to greet crowds at Lafayette Square at 3 p.m. for another rally.

Those who want to get involved have several options. Businesses can sign on here to participate in the strike. And for individuals looking to do more than march, Pandya is encouraging people to become part of “walk-back” teams. “Groups of people can physically accompany workers that are afraid of retaliation on their way back to work on May 2 and May 3,” she explains. She’s impressed by the number of people who have signed up. “That’s a concrete and tangible way to help, saying: ‘I’m standing in solidarity with this person and don’t want them to be retaliated against [for missing work].’”