The Third International after Lenin

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back to Taco Bell for me...


By Staff

Minneapolis, MN - On Dec. 14, Juan and Maria, two workers from Chipotle Mexican Restaurant who are Mexican immigrants, spoke out at a press conference after being fired as part of a statewide immigration sweep. Over 20 other fired Chipotle workers stood by them as they told what has happened over the past week and presented their demands to Chipotle Mexican Restaurant and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Starting on Dec. 6, more than 80 workers have been fired at Chipotle Mexican restaurants around the state in coordinated immigration-related firings. The firings of Latino immigrants appear to be ongoing, since Latino workers in several locations say they are being asked to train in new white workers who they fear will become their replacements once the training is complete, as happened in several of the stores where firings have already occurred.

Despite repeated attempts from the fired workers and from the media to find out what’s going on, both Chipotle and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have refused to explain why the workers are being fired. ICE has made no statement and Chipotle only released a terse one-sentence statement saying they were cooperating with an ICE request for documents.

According to a statement from the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc), which is working with Chipotle workers, multiple Latino workers were fired at the Chipotle restaurants on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul; at Lake Calhoun, Seven Corners and Downtown skyway in Minneapolis; in the Minnesota cities of Golden Valley, Coon Rapids, Richfield, Stillwater and Saint Cloud and in Hudson, Wisconsin. Firings at other stores have been reported but not verified. The total number fired is more than 80, and likely more than 100, but activists say the exact number is difficult to know since Chipotle won’t even acknowledge the firings, let alone confirm how many people they have fired.

Chipotle workers from multiple stores where there have been firings organized a press conference on Dec. 14 with the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL).

At the press conference, fired Chipotle worker Juan presented the fired workers’ three demands: “What we’re asking from the company are three things. We’re asking them for the truth. They’re given different people different reasons about why we’re being fired and we haven’t received any documentation. We need the truth. Secondly, we want time. People deserve a reasonable amount of time to be able to resolve any discrepancies that exist, to be able to resolve it before being terminated. And finally, we want to have our compensation for the time that we’ve worked there, and our bonuses that we get at this time of year.”

The workers also demanded that ICE stop these kinds of audits so that other workers won’t have to go through what they have experienced. Though they won’t verify it, Chipotle’s statement points to the firings being the result of an I-9 audit, which is one of the most common methods the government is using now to attack immigrant workers. Immigrant rights activists characterize I-9 audits as ‘desktop raids’ in which large numbers of immigrant workers who have done nothing wrong in their jobs suddenly are all fired in a mass sweep. Activists argue they are particularly harmful, considering that the economy is still in crisis. The workers fired include many long-time dedicated workers who have worked at Chipotle for up to ten years.

These Chipotle firings come on the heels of other recent mass firings in Minnesota based on I-9 audits. Last year 1200 janitors who worked for ABM and who were members of SEIU Local 26 in the Twin Cities lost their jobs as a result of I-9 audits. One of the fired ABM workers spoke at Tuesday's press conference in solidarity with the Chipotle workers. Two months ago, over 50 workers at a South Saint Paul tanning company were fired and last week around the same number were fired at a South Saint Paul cattle-hide processing company.

MIRAc is asking people to contact Chipotle management and demand that they stop firing Latino workers in Minnesota. Chipotle can be called at 303-595-4000 (press 0 to talk to a person) or email mediarelations@chipotle.com.

According to MIRAc member Brad Sigal, “Firing large numbers of Latino workers right before Christmas is the wrong thing to do. We demand that Chipotle stop this cruel wave of firings and we demand that ICE stop these I-9 audits that punish workers, not employers.”

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