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Chipotle Mexican Grill: a really bad employer exposed by US racist immigration policies

March 23, 2011

The case of labor abuse committed by Chipotle Mexican Grill is just one example of what is happening across this country: mass incarcerations, deportations and firings of poor Brown workers, enforced by the Obama administration.

They use our people, our work and hopes. When things get bad, they get rid of us.

Chipotle Mexican Grill fired 40 workers this month, forced by Homeland Security. Under false premises they put these workers on the street (literally) and accused them of “abandoning their jobs”.

Now the fired workers are fighting back for labor compensations and unpaid salaries. Local D.C. activists are supporting them, based on the fact that labor rights in the U.S. apply for all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

You can help, read this and sign the petition at the end of this post.

So many times I thought of writing good things about Chipotle. Its food is really good, it has this home-made taste that reminds me of “Latin” America, the Brown America. When my mother came to visit me I took her there, and she said “finally some food that doesn’t taste like it was cooked in a hospital” in reference to the local U.S. cuisine. No offense.

The secret of Chipotle: according to its website, its food is made with mostly organic vegetables and 100% naturally raised animals. The freshness of its food is also a result of its cooking system perfected by Steve Ells, founder of the Denver-based corporation. Probably you have seeing Steve Ells in TV lately.

Truth is, the best thing about Chipotle’s food is its recipes, based on the cuisine of indigenous Mexican peoples. And this food is freshly cooked in your neighborhood by mostly-indigenous employees who know best how to make it! I’m hungry now.

However, Chipotle has another secret.

This corporation uses a lot of undocumented workers, and fire them whenever things gets complicated. And they are racist too, because they target naive and vulnerable immigrants, Indigenous peoples now called Latinos.

Legalized racism

As you might know, the disgraced Obama administration is conducting a witch hunting on undocumented immigrants, with la vieja mala Janet Napolitano in charge. This means, Homeland Security is pressuring companies to fire undocumented workers.

Unlike the Bush administration, which run raids at homes and work places (it turned out to be bad content for the media), now the U.S. government is pushing employers to fire “illegal aliens” thus pushing them deeper into poverty,  while their names are put in the deportation list.

Last month, ICE the bureaucratic acting agency for immigration enforcement, sent out a warning: “All Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C., will be audited by federal immigration officials as part of a wider government crackdown on companies that hire undocumented workers.” So Chipotle fired 40 workers, in one day. TBD has a good video about this mess.

The local Chipotle ‘Mexican’ Grill management acted like desperate assholes. They tricked their workers into “abandoning their jobs”. Chipotle says they “lost” workers, pendejos. Obviously this is labor and human rights abuse, and CMG has done it before in Minneapolis. Fucked up.

This is nothing new, because this type of racist abuse is actually very common in the restaurant industry across this country. Anyone who knows how restaurants function is aware of this: they hire mostly Brown indigenous migrants -who are usually undocumented- to do the nasty work in the back of the house. When they don’t need them, they grill them out.

What is so upsetting about Chipotle’s labor abuse, I explain.


I’m very familiar with Chipotle. I know of people who work there or used to work in Chipotle and some of them are undocumented. I know how hard they work and how little they get paid, it’s tougher than what it looks from the other side of the counter.

Also I know also that according to the current U.S. immigration laws, a U.S. company can sponsor a worker to fix his/her immigration status. It takes a lot of money and time -this damn obsolete immigration system- so not a lot of companies go for it. But it can be done.

For years, Chipotle Mexican Grill has been hiring undocumented workers, knowingly.

The reasons are well known: these workers are cheaper, highly driven, they work damn hard, they have better work ethics than many U.S. workers who would not want to spend half a day cooking for $8-9 dollars an hour. Mostly, they really know how to make that delicious Mexican food, in a production system that is seems perfect to the consumers.

Why hasn’t Chipotle helped its undocumented workers to get a green card? Instead of firing them? Because this is how things work in this country with rich corporations: profits are more important than people. Especially these days.

Steve Ells praises himself in the CMG website, that his company cares about how animals are raised for food in this country, so he raises his own naturally. “Food with Integrity” he calls it. But his company doesn’t seem to give a pinto bean about his workers, those who have built its wealth and success.

Now two D.C. Council Members are acting like they care about these workers. They will hold a press conference tomorrow in front of the Chipotle location in Columbia Heights. I don’t think there is a lot they can do for these people and their families. This well intentioned effort is the work of local activist Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, among others.

The 40 workers will be probably taken to prison and then deported soon. Many U.S. children will be left parent-less, while some families in Mexico and Central America will lose their only source of income.

This is exactly what the Obama administration is doing all across the country, silently. It’s not on the news, but is happening. I know the case of several people whose relatives have been already imprisoned and deported.

And then, there is the indifference, the xenophobic hatred. According to NBC Washington, locals are laughing about it. Read the comments on any immigration-related website in this country. Disgusting. Well, is what this nation is becoming: a society of racism, xenophobia, abuse, discrimination, where profits have become much more important than people, way too much.

Think about this the next time you eat that delicious food at Chipotle Mexican Grill, if you have the nerve to buy there again. It might be true after all, we are what we eat.

Please sing this petition and spread the word:
Demand Chipotle Mexican Grill Treat Workers With Integrity, Apologize, and Pay Up


6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2012 3:04 am

    I agree with you completely. The only advantage with Chipotle is that is a fast-food chain, conveniently located and its service can be fast. Other than that, Chipotle is far from being the best Mexican food restaurant in any given town, no way.

  2. April 4, 2012 2:55 am

    “No one forced [undocumented] immigrants to come here.” That is utterly false, most undocumented workers in the U.S. come here forced by poverty, desperation, provoked violence and inequality in our home countries. Your grandparents lived in a different world than what we live today.

  3. March 27, 2012 10:01 am

    I would contest the statement that their “food is really good”.Their carne asada is flavorless and served in large-ish cubes that are heavy on the gristle.Yuck! They charge for a small bag of cold chips when every real taqueria in town gives you free hot totilla chips made right on the premisses.They make a “sort of” pledge to use organic,locally grown ingredients but all it really says is that they try to.Don’t count on what you’re getting there to actually be organic or locally grown.If you have a real taqueria in your town then go there and try it.You will most likely find that the food is much better and in most cases you will be supporting a small family owned restaurant instead of a dishonest corporation.

  4. Seriously permalink
    March 14, 2012 3:07 am

    No one forced illegal immigrants to come here. No one forces them to take the jobs they do. The mere fact they are here working on the cheap makes it hard to get a decent paying job for those of us here legally. My grandparents emigrated here legally. The day they got here they darn well better speak English and be self supporting. Not so much any more.

    My husband (american Indian) would love to make $8-9 an hour. He has scrubbed toilets, cleaned floors and packed potato chips for far less. Why? Because his coworkers, mostly illegals, will work for less than min wage. We can’t afford to, we don’t have 5 people in our house working.

    Quit whining and go home.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    December 13, 2011 2:01 am

    Tooooo bad! I hope someone can do something for this people who can defense themselfs, I will not go to Chipotle in my life , , , ,

  6. Cheryl D Millard permalink
    July 16, 2011 1:32 am

    This is legal prostitution .

    My Aunt and Uncle would hire the undocumented for various jobs within their restaurant, there was no difference in pay for the same job, harassment was not allowed by or to anyone AND they often helped their undocumented employees with immigration paperwork if they needed it.

    It’s too bad the HUGE corporate entities with financial bottom lines that would rival that of a third world country prostitute the very employees that make them what they are famous for, I hope this hits them in the pocketbook, money after all is their first language, not compassion or respect .

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