Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Oberweiss and Undocumented Workers

When wealthy dairy owner Jim Oberweis campaigned in last year's GOP primary for the U.S. Senate, he dramatized how tough he would get on undocumented immigrants by running an ad in which a helicopter circled over Soldier Field. So many illegal aliens were crossing into the U.S., Oberweis warned, that Chicago's 61,500-seat stadium could be filled by a new batch of them every week! "Illegal aliens are coming here to take American workers' jobs, drive down wages and take advantage of government benefits such as free health care, and you pay," Oberweis said in one of the spots. Oberweis, who is now running for governor, has an immigration problem of his own.Two individuals say they worked in one of his ice cream shops. And they say they were paid just $3.25 an hour, half the state's minimum wage. Rosa Ramirez, a 41-year-old Mexico City native, and Jorge Ibarra, a 35-year-old from Guanajuato, have filed complaints against Oberweis with the Illinois Department of Labor. They had a news conference Tuesday with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Oberweis complained that this was a "smear tactic," but it's hard to see why. There's not much question that Ramirez and Ibarra worked in an Oberweis store. The coalition showed a DVD recording of them wiping a glass door affixed with the Oberweis logo and mopping floors near an ice cream freezer. Oberweis puts the blame on a subcontractor who provided cleaning services for the store. Source: Chicago Tribune, Nov. 9, 2005 bh

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