MINNEAPOLIS-- Dozens of former employees, their families and friends gathered in front of Chipotle in downtown Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon to protest the recent firings of nearly 100 hispanic workers.
The protest, organized by a coalition of human rights groups and a local union, was to demand a dialog with company owners regarding the dismissals, which began in early December.
The Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee says on its website that the firings are part of an immigration-related audit. Group member Nigel Arevalo says all the fired workers are Latino.
The workers call the firings unjustified, and some have alleged that Chipotle still owes them money or vacation pay. They are asking the company to tell them 'why' they were fired; asking for more time to help them find new jobs; and requesting pay, holiday time, and bonus money that is owed.
In a released statement a fired worker named Maria says "Latino workers have given Chipotle our labor and they've become a very well recognized restaurant thanks to us. Now they're stabbing us in the back and telling us they don't need us anymore."
Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold responed with his own written statement Wednesday afternoon. It reads:
"Chipotle is proud to have such a dedicated and diverse workforce and we are saddened to be losing some excellent employees, many of whom have been with us for several years, but all of this comes in response to a request for documents made by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Minnesota. While the laws in this area put employers in an untenable position - having to strike the difficult balance between enforcing immigration laws while not discriminating against any applicant - all of our policies and practices are and must be fully compliant with federal and state law."
"We are paying all employees any and all wages they are owed, including bonuses earned and any unused vacation time," Arnold continued, "and all employees whose status has been questioned by ICE are being provided with the opportunity to provide documentation to correct any administrative errors that may have been made."
ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said earlier that the agency doesn't comment on specific audits and he could neither confirm nor deny whether Chipotle documents were being reviewed.
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