Aryzta AG, a Swiss company which operated the Cloverhill Bakery in the Galewood district of Chicago, reportedly lost one-third of its workers this year after a review by federal immigration authorities. It was widely reported that Cloverhill, which supplies hamburger buns to McDonald’s restaurant franchises, will have to replace approximately 800 employees who failed to show documentation. Aryzta AG Chief Executive Officer Kevin Toland said the company may have to raise wages, following the audit that resulted in the loss of 35 percent of its labor force. 

However, local reports indicate that illegal immigrant workers have shifted to jobs offered by other employers. Hilda Gutierrez of Telemundo -- a Spanish-language broadcaster based in the U.S. - reported that a woman she interviewed said that immigration officers went to the Cloverhill Bakery to ask for immigration documents. The illegal immigrants work elsewhere.  

The woman, identified as Gela Alvarez, said that she knew of two persons who were affected by the ICE audit. Alvarez said on video, “I only heard that Immigration came but that they asked for their documents. Because I know two people of my community and there they are. They now work for another company. But they only asked for their documents.” The interview was conducted in front of Metro Staff Inc. -- a third-party staffing company. A banner outside its office advertised jobs in Cicero and Chicago, Illinois.

A second woman, identified as Isabel Vera, told Gutierrez that “because of problems caused by the new law, they pulled out people and hired other people; the legal immigrants stayed and the illegals did not.” Vera added, “If we return to our home countries we can’t earn anything. Try to become legal. Every country has its laws and we must abide by them.” She is seeking employment at Cloverhill bakery.

According to Bloomberg News, Toland Aryzta said that hiring is “proceeding very, very slowly because it’s like having a brand new factory and a brand new workforce.” Toland said that it is “presenting a lot of challenges, as you can imagine.”

Aryzta AG, which is based in Zurich, Switzerland, has operations in the United States and numerous other countries. In October, its 2017 annual report admitted that the multinational had a “significant labour-related business disruption” at the Cloverfield facilities after immigration raids in June and July. Aryzta AG insists, however, that workers were contracted by a third-party, allegedly making them unable to check their workers’ legal status. The company has also reported that it has difficulty retaining employees. Aryzta did not name the third-party staffing firm it used.

The report stated that the loss of 800 employees, who had “significant knowledge and experience of the baking process,” has meant decreased production and a seven percent decline in sales over the summer. The Aryzta AG report calculated its loss at $21.6 million (€16.3m of losses) in June and July.

Immigration raids have been stepped up after President Donald Trump signed executive orders concerning the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants. The orders meant federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have been freer to pursue illegal immigrants, even those without criminal records.

In October, ICE director Thomas Homan said officers will fully investigate worksite immigration violations. He said that his agency will arrest more immigrants at workplaces by prosecuting employers “who knowingly harbor the illegal aliens” and “detain[ing] and remov[ing]” the immigrants. Immigration raids will become more frequent at national food service chains, according to an internal ICE document obtained by the media last week.

With millions of illegal immigrants working in food preparation and the service industry, such as hotels, slaughterhouses, bakeries, canning factories, and agriculture, ICE has a broad field to address. Many illegal immigrants are to be found in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. While raids at workplaces have taken place in previous administrations, they dropped off during the Obama administration when ICE focused on employers, not illegal alien employees.


 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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