An Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at Chicago’s Cloverhill Bakery that netted 800 illegal alien employees can be looked at two ways. First, management at the bakery, which makes McDonald’s Corp. hamburger buns and baked goods for other fast-food chains, claims the ICE action put the company in turmoil, “presenting a lot of challenges, as you can imagine,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Toland. But, the second and encouraging perspective from unemployed Americans is that ICE has suddenly created 800 job opportunities.
In a typically tedious and disingenuous post-immigration enforcement cover-up, Cloverhill said it had no idea illegal aliens worked at the company. After all, a job-placement agency, conveniently unnamed, provided the employees. Don’t point fingers at Cloverhill management!
Zurich-based Aryzta AG owns Cloverhill, and a representative said that it now faces pressure to – heaven forbid – raise wages to attract staff. Employers who hire aliens argue that Americans can’t be found or are unwilling to do the work that illegal immigrants will eagerly perform. But like the statement that Cloverhill had no idea its workers didn’t have legal employment authorization documents, the suggestion that Americans can’t be found insults a third grader’s intelligence.
Let’s get serious. Chicago jobs are at a premium. In June, the Chicago Tribune wrote that local job creation is subpar when compared to the national average, and that the seeming improvement in the unemployment rate from last year’s 5.4 percent to May’s 4.1 percent is likely attributable to “an exodus of workers.” By extension, those Chicago workers detached from Chicago’s labor force might be candidates to work at Cloverdale, assuming they’d be offered a decent wage.
Unquestionably, salary is the most important variable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 bakers’ median wage was $25,090 annually with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $18,640. Presumably, the illegal aliens fell into the lowest earning category. Try to make it in Chicago, or anywhere for that matter, on wages that hover around the poverty line.
Although media coverage has focused on the manufacturing disruption the ICE action caused, the harsh reality is that Cloverhill is one of thousands of exploitative U.S. employers that seek out cheap labor. When caught, they yell foul, and then blame everyone except themselves. As one ICE official said, “These people are basically used as slave labor.”
Cheap immigrant labor’s ready availability squeezes out Americans. Paul Krugman, immigration expansionist, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, agrees. In an op-ed, Krugman wrote that because of labor supply and demand, immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants. The large increases in low-skill workers inevitably mean a decline in wages.
Other companies that employ illegal aliens should view Cloverhill as a warning that ICE could be knocking on their doors soon. Hiring illegal immigrants is a crime with possible fines, property forfeiture and/or imprisonment to follow. An internal ICE memo showed that the agency plans to carry out more vigorous enforcement at food service worksites. Tom Homan, acting ICE director, promised to prosecute illegal immigrant employers, and then detain and remove illegal aliens. Homan: “That’s our job.”
The historic solution to filling vacant jobs is paying Americans higher wages, not as Cloverhill and others do, hiring illegal alien slave laborers.
— Joe Guzzardi