Two enterprising Reuters reporters tracked down a few of the recently-fired illegal Chipotle restaurant workers who admitted that they committed identity theft and/or fraud to land a job at the fast-food chain. Since illegal employment and identity theft have been linked before, these confessions aren't surprising. What the fired workers told reporters next, however, is more newsworthy: Chipotle knew they were hiring illegal workers. Here's the money quote:
"Not only did some [illegal workers] get jobs with fake Social Security numbers and few questions about their immigration status, in some cases they actually told managers point-blank their papers were no good. And they often stayed on for years."
Chipotle denies the accusation, of course, but when Reuters asked Chipotle officials why they weren't mandating the use of E-Verify in all their restaurants, "[t]he company did not respond to the question." Hmmm....
A less complete story would have left the reader to wonder what possible reasons Chipotle could have offered for dodging the question. But Reuters apparently posed the same question to the illegal workers and they did have something to say: "One answer the fired workers and union leaders offer is that hiring illegal immigrants was good for business because it lowered labor costs."
One dismissed worker told Reuters, "They know we're hard workers and that we are going to do the job the way they want, so they will keep it quiet." Another said: "They don't have a modern system to verify documents." The reporters pointed out that "Chipotle could have found anomalies had it used E-Verify," while also noting that Chipotle is a stock market darling precisely because it managed to keep its labor costs down.
Is everyone connecting the dots? Chipotle hires thousands of illegal workers...Chipotle gains a reputation for keeping its labor costs down...Chipotle's stock rises...Chipotle gets caught hiring illegal workers...Chipotle says they do everything they can to hire legal workers...Chipotle declines to use E-Verify in all of its outlets...Chipotle declines to answer questions about E-Verify...
In my previous blog, I quoted Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who explained how immigration drives wages down ("That's just supply and demand"). A reader responded, "[It] took a Nobel winning economist to figure this one out?" Well, perhaps some in the press are also connecting the dots, doing their math, and getting to the heart of the story through their tough questions. That appears to have been the case in the Reuters story.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Apr 15th 2011 @ 1:48pm EDT