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Chipotle wants right to hire from pool of workers now in U.S. illegally
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The folks who run Chipotle Mexican Grill apparently are convinced that it is not worth the effort to hire only from the pool of people who can legally work in the United States.

That is why Chipotle CEO Monty Moran is lobbying politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., to change immigration laws so that the chain can have access to what they're characterizing as a "strong and legal" work force.

Moran wants a social program put in place for employers like Chipotle that requires a year-round workforce for qualified workers. He contends the temporary guest worker program used for farm operations just doesn't cut it when it comes to meeting the needs of firms such as Chipotle.

Here's a novel idea: Why doesn't Moran simply have Chipotle hire those who can legally work such as United States citizens, those with permanent residence status, and others in this country legally? The national unemployment rate for workers between 18 and 24 years of age is 14 percent compared to the overall jobless rate of 9.7 percent nationally.

Chipotle infers a lot of real interesting things about the labor pool for a chain restaurant when it comes to hiring hourly employees. He apparently is convinced it takes too much time, expense, and disruptions for Chipotle not to be able to have the labor pool expanded by tossing those who are in this country illegally into the mix.

Moran rolls off statistics his firm compiled after they got nailed big time by the Obama Administration for having hundreds upon hundreds of undocumented workers in their stores. It was so bad in Minnesota the chain had to release more than half of the 900 workers in their stores.

He's telling politicians that it can now take as many as 40 applicants in some areas to fill an open position as opposed to 10 when they were hiring illegals.

And since they have been pressured by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to actually comply with American law, their turnover rate has gone from under 100 percent a year to exceeding 125 percent.

Gee, I wonder why that's the case? Could it be something to do with the fact illegal workers who land employment tend not to job jump as much for obvious reasons?

Moran decries the fact that the word has gotten out to those who are in the United States illegally to avoid Chipotle when looking for a job because they are under intense scrutiny.

That's another indication that illegal workers are obviously doing what they can to stay under the radar whether it is not switching jobs or not expecting more hours or even pay raises.

Chipotle was once an aberration in fast food stores due to their sub-triple digit turnover rate. Now they are on par with McDonald's. The only big change of course, has been their inability to get away with hiring illegal workers.

So essentially Moran wants Congress to change the law so he can squeeze out young legal workers who have every reason to expect upward mobility and have no fear of being busted in an ICE raid.

If he thinks there is no other answer to the dynamics of fast food and turnover, he may want to check out the privately owned In-n-Out Burger chain. They have an extremely low turnover. But then again, they pay their employees on average $2 to $3 an hour more than everyone else in fast food plus create a family-style atmosphere among the work force.

Maybe Congress doesn't have to change guest worker law to reduce the burdens Chipotle now says is too much to bear to hire and retain qualified workers. Perhaps if Moran worried less about stacking up bigger profits from expansion plans that don't include improving the wages of Chipotle workers he might just find turnover will decrease.

But then again - as publically traded companies have proven time and time again - it is much more profitable for them to get Congress to manipulate the system than it is to pay decent wages.

Share the wealth with workers instead of trying to pump up double-digit profits margins each year and Chipotle might just find it has a stable work force without the need to import workers.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.