When deportations create more jobs for black workers

This is a strange story out of Chicago which popped last week and really deserves a closer look by everyone. A bakery on the Northwest Side of the Windy City was sold off recently, starting a firestorm of controversy in the community. The Cloverhill Bakery, operating at three different locations, was a major supplier of snack cakes and related baked goods for Little Debbie, but that customer “walked away” after the bakery could no longer fulfill their orders. The reason? ICE had conducted an audit and found that more than 800 primarily Hispanic workers, many employed through a temp agency, were in the country illegally or otherwise using stolen or forged identification. The workers who didn’t immediately take off on their own had to be let go and production plummeted.

Sounds like a disaster, right? But it gets more complicated. Hostess is in the process of buying the bakeries and hiring new workers. Given the location and employment requirements, nearly all of the new workers, largely coming from a different temp agency, are African-American. The complications come in with the fact that some activists are now painting this as some sort of racial confrontation which is being generated by the corporation. This article from the Chicago Sun-Times paints it in the worst possible terms, describing it as the black and Hispanic communities “being pitted against each other.” But if you read down into the details you’ll see that something remarkable has happened. (Emphasis added)

In 2015, under the Obama administration, ICE inspected the documentation of Labor Network’s employees at Cloverhill. In May 2017, the Trump administration sent letters to about 800 employees, saying they weren’t authorized to work in the United States, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Those Hispanic employees didn’t return to work, leaving the bakery desperate to fill their jobs. So the company turned to another placement agency, Metro Staff Inc., and it provided Cloverhill with workers screened through the government’s “E-Verification” program. Most of those new employees are African American.

According to a former consultant to the bakery, MSI paid the black workers $14 an hour, versus the $10 an hour the Mexican workers were making through Labor Network.

The consultant, Felix Okwusa, says the bakery offered its remaining Hispanic workers a $1-an-hour premium to train the black replacement workers.

Despite efforts in the media and among community organizers to paint this as either some sort of “Trump hates immigrants” or divisive race war story, this may turn out to be a huge win for Chicago. First of all, this was an illegal immigration investigation started under Obama, so you can forget about the Trump line. What really counts is the results.

Once ICE sent out those letters, hundreds of illegal aliens knew that their number was up and simply disappeared. The agency who was placing all of them wasn’t following the rules and placing illegals in jobs, so they need to be investigated also. But the owners went through a different agency which uses E-Verify and replaced all of those workers with citizens.

Remember those previous stories about black unemployment dropping over the past year? This is a largely black community so guess who was getting all of those jobs? And they’re making four dollars an hour more than the positions previously paid because of the supply and demand rules of the labor market. Would anyone care to tell me how this is “a bad thing” when hundreds of new jobs with very modest skill and education requirements open up for African-American workers at wages well above the minimum?

The Sun-Times article goes on to air some complaints (which frankly sound totally racist to me) about how the turnover rate among the new workers is higher and how the “immigrants” were willing to do this work for less money. That’s an incredible complaint. They were working for less because they are in the country illegally. By hiring actual citizens, the company avoids breaking the law even if they’re forced to pay a bit more to fill all of those positions.

The tale of Cloverhill Bakery is being depicted as some sort of racial atrocity or deportation forces gone wild, but it’s actually a success story. We need more housecleaning operations such as this, not fewer.