A huge Chicago bakery is now hiring Americans at higher wages, following a federal immigration enforcement action which forced the firing of 800 illegal immigrants.
A major bakery on the Northwest Side once known for making Little Debbie snack cakes was sold earlier this month after an immigration audit cost the company about a third of its workers.
About 800 employees of the main Cloverhill Bakery on the Northwest Side and the company’s bakeries in Cicero and Romeoville lost their jobs when the audit found many were hired after presenting fake or stolen IDs.
What a suprise! NOT!
The owner of Little Debbie walked away, saying its orders no longer were getting filled on time by Cloverhill, and revenues fell for the bakery’s corporate owner, the Swiss food conglomerate Aryzta.
Finally, Aryzta had enough and sold the bakeries. Hostess Brands said it’s buying Cloverhill’s Chicago bakery from Aryzta.
In 2015, under the Obama administration, ICE inspected the documentation of Labor Network’s employees at Cloverhill. In May 2017, the Trump administration sent letters to about 800 employees, saying they weren’t authorized to work in the United States.
This is a typical story of the problem with illegal immigration and jobs in Chicago. Cloverhill bakery hired over 800 illegals to work for about $10/hour for 10-12 hours a day. But after the raid on illegals at the company, they were left with 800 jobs to fill. So they hired blacks. The blacks were paid at a higher wage a minimum hourly wage of $14/hour.
Some might see what happened at Cloverhill Bakery as a sign of the problems with hiring illegals that happened under the Obama administration for 8 years. Many illegals were allowed into the country. These illegals worked for lesser wages than Americans who were left unemployed. With Trump as president, corporate America now is being held accountable for hiring immigrants as there are increased government crackdowns.
The story of the 137,000-square-foot bakery in Galewood on the Northwest Side of Chicago appears to be more complicated than that. It precedes the Trump administration and involves tensions between African American and Hispanic workers, according to current and former employees, a former company consultant and a worker activist group.
“They’re being pitted against each other, so they don’t get along,” says Dan Giloth, a community organizer on the West Side. “We believe this is a divide-and-conquer strategy.
“Unfortunately in Chicago, there is a widespread segregationist employment model to contract out most of your production work through temporary agencies and look the other way when they target employees by race or immigration status,” says Giloth, a former union organizer who is project manager for the group Coalition Against Segregation of Employees. “The goal is to create a very vulnerable workforce — and keep the wages low.”
Tracy Stecko, a spokesman for Aryzta, declined to comment except to say, “Our company briefly owned that bakery operation but no longer does, so you may want to ask your questions to more appropriate parties, such as ICE or the union that is the legal bargaining representative for most workers at that bakery.”
Cloverhill, which opened in 1961, was owned and operated by a River Forest family before it was sold to Arytza in 2014. In addition to McDonald’s hamburger buns, Cloverhill also produces low-cost packaged products like glazed donuts and honey buns.
At the time of purchase by Arytza, according to bakery employees and community organizers, most of the employees were natives of Mexico, most who’d been hired through Labor Network, a temporary-employment agency.
The loss of illegal immigrants can be very expensive for a company because Trump’s new ‘Buy American. Hire American.” can demand higher wages — and most of the prior employers then demand similar pay levels.
Those Hispanic employees didn’t return to work, leaving the bakery desperate to fill their jobs. So the company turned to another placement agency, Metro Staff Inc., and it provided Cloverhill with workers screened through the government’s “E-Verification” program. Most of those new employees are African American.
According to a former consultant to the bakery, MSI paid the black workers $14 an hour, versus the $10 an hour the Mexican workers were making through Labor Network.
The consultant, Felix Okwusa, says the bakery offered its remaining Hispanic workers a $1-an-hour premium to train the black replacement workers.
But Okwusa says Cloverhill soon ran into problems. In a memo to the company, Okwusa, who is African American, wrote that the black workers “displayed a higher turnover rate of over 40 percent and a lower efficiency rate than their Hispanic co-workers.”
Lynne Lane, a union steward at Cloverhill, says there are tensions as the two groups work side by side. Lane, who is black, says it was black workers at the bakery who called a government hotline to report the Mexican workers to immigration authorities.
“It was [African American] workers in the plant that saw, you know, like I said, that had been treated unfairly and treated like secondary-class citizens” by Hispanic workers, Lane says. “So it was a whole lot of employees in the company. Well, they was given a number, as far as I know. They was given a number to call … to call Immigration.”
Lane estimates that 90 percent of the workers in the Chicago bakery were Hispanic when she started working about two years ago and now about 90 percent of the workers are black.
Giloth, the community organizer, says other Chicago-area factories also have used temp agencies to recruit Hispanic workers over black workers. He points to Ferrara Candy Co. in Forest Park, which was sued in 2013 by black job applicants who said they were passed up for jobs given to Latino applicants.
Ferrara settled for $1.5 million, according to court records. Nearly 900 potential black employees were eligible to share in the fund, with the rest of the money to go to the West Side Health Authority, which Giloth is affiliated with, to provide job training for African Americans.
“The company is trying to play the victim here,” said Dan Giloth, a project director with CASE. “They do a quarterly revenue report to their shareholders and they had to explain why they didn’t have larger revenue in North America, so they’re blaming the plant in Chicago.
The damage to company profits caused by immigration enforcement helps explain the rising effort by many business-supported advocacy groups to expand the supply of cheap-labor immigrants into the United States. For example, a loose coalition of lobbying groups is now pushing Congress to package a wage-lowering amnesty in the 2018 budget. The groups include FWD.us, New American Economy, and the National Immigration Forum.
The Cloverhill action suggests that officials at the Department of Homeland Security are stepping up their workforce inspections. In October, Thomas Homan, director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, told reporters at the Heritage Foundation that:
So we’re taking worksite enforcement very hard this year. Regarding the increased number of inspections and worksite operations, you are going to see us significantly increase this next fiscal year. We’re doing it differently than we’ve done it. Now we’re going to prosecute the employers who knowingly harbor the illegal aliens, we are going to detain and remove the [aliens].
Each year, four million Americans turn 18 and begin looking for good jobs in the free market.
But the federal government inflates the supply of new labor by annually accepting 1 million new legal immigrants, by providing almost 2 million work-permits to foreigners, by providing work-visas to roughly 500,000 temporary workers and doing little to block the employment of roughly 8 million illegal immigrants.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) says he has met with immigrant workers at Cloverhill about the bakery, which is across the street from his ward boundary, and has been working with Communities United, an organization that helps immigrants.
Villegas says blacks have been pitted against Hispanics in the day-labor world “for quite some time. African-Americans were discriminated against because day-labor agencies knew they could take advantage of the undocumented workers. Everybody who wants to work should have a fair opportunity and not be taken advantage of.”
Villegas says companies that hire the day-labor agencies also shoulder some blame.
“Those companies that participate in that type of practice need to be held accountable, too,” he says. “They should be treating everybody the same way, regardless of their status. They’re pitting one ethnicity versus another. It’s just not right.”
I’m sorry, but the illegals Mr. Villegas in my book should NOT be here. Period. Companies should be held accountable for hiring illegals in the first place. HELLO! THEY’RE ILLEGALS!!!!!
Aryzta is just one of many companies on the West Side who receive tax subsidies, particularly from being within the city’s Tax Increment Financing districts, without being accountable to the people who live in those areas.
Only one in 16 jobs goes to residents in the city’s TIF districts, according to a 2013 study by the Grassroots Collaborative.
Personally, I’m happy to see illegals being rounded up. Trump is supporting his promise to Americans – “Buy American. Hire American”. It’s time to take care of Americans FIRST!
Let’s hope Hostess does a better job of taking care of Americans FIRST!
Resources: Breitbart, Chicago SunTimes, OakPark.com