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7-Eleven must step up to prevent worker abuses by franchisees

Dallas News: 7-Eleven must step up to prevent worker abuses by franchisees

If 7-Eleven Inc. can monitor Slurpees at its stores, why not labor practices?

Last week, federal authorities seized 10 of the chain’s stores in Long Island, N.Y., and four in Virginia, and said the franchise owners were running “a modern-day plantation system.” They allegedly hired dozens of immigrants in the country illegally, assigned stolen identities, kept much of their wages and required them to live in boarding houses. This went on for 13 years.

Nine people were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and harboring illegal immigrants, according to federal indictments.

It was another example of a broken immigration system, and a reminder that workers continue to be exploited while lawmakers debate change in Washington. The case also showed how big businesses can be drawn into immigration controversies, even if they’re not legally on the hook. And it raised the question of why the parent company wasn’t more vigilant.

7-Eleven’s corporate parent wasn’t charged, and a spokeswoman at its Dallas headquarters declined to discuss the case. In a statement, the company said it was cooperating with the investigation and would take steps to audit the employment status of all workers.

The company also said that franchise owners must follow the law and 7-Eleven’s franchise agreement, which assigns all labor issues to the franchisees.

In other words, it blamed the bad actors who exploited the workers. As the U.S. attorney said, they used 7-Eleven as a platform for an elaborate criminal enterprise.

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