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Fired Latino Chipotle workers protest, eight allies arrested

By staff |
January 21, 2011
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Chipotle workers and allies protest unjust firings Jan. 20 in Minneapolis
Chipotle workers and allies protest unjust firings Jan. 20 in Minneapolis (Photo by Rafael Morataya)

Minneapolis, MN - On Jan. 20, dozens of Latino immigrants who were among the hundreds fired from Chipotle Mexican Grill throughout Minnesota last month protested at a downtown Minneapolis Chipotle. At the protest the workers entered the store, while eight of the workers’ allies chained themselves together inside the store until they were arrested. The workers and their supporters are demanding justice from Chipotle.

Chipotle, a large multinational corporation that markets itself as a socially conscious Mexican food restaurant that sells “food with integrity,” abruptly fired hundreds of their Mexican and other Latino immigrant workers in Minnesota in December. At Chipotle restaurants across the state, they fired dozens of workers at a time, showing them the door without giving them a clear explanation for their firing.

Hearing rumblings of the firings, the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) denounced the cruel pre-Christmas firings publicly, and the media quickly took notice. Since then the fired workers have continued to speak out. They've organized several protests to demand justice. Their campaign is being supported by SEIU Local 26, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) and MIRAc.

The workers are demanding that they be properly compensated, including all back pay, vacation pay and compensation for years of service. They are demanding the truth from the company, which for weeks refused to make a public statement about the firings. Under pressure from the workers and repeated media questioning, Chipotle now admits in the press that the mass firings were a result of an I-9 Audit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but they still haven’t communicated that clearly to the workers they fired.

I-9 audits are an anti-immigrant enforcement mechanism that have been dramatically ramped up by the Obama administration over the last two years, resulting in massive waves of unjust firings of immigrant workers around the country. Here in Minnesota, in addition to the hundreds of fired Chipotle workers, 1200 janitors were fired from ABM a year and a half ago and 100 immigrant workers in South Saint Paul who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union were fired recently from I-9 audits as well.

According to MIRAc member Brad Sigal, “The workers at Chipotle were fired because the Obama administration is ordering more and more of these anti-immigrant I-9 audits. The President can stop them today administratively - it doesn’t need a vote in Congress. If President Obama wants to show he supports immigrant rights like he claims, then not one more immigrant worker should be fired unjustly because of his administration’s policies.”

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