7-Eleven accused of weaponizing ICE raids to shed troublesome franchisees

Most of America's 9,000 7-Eleven stores are owned by franchisees, many of them immigrants; the owners' contracts with 7-Eleven corporate allows the company to pull their franchises if they violate US law.

The current CEO of 7-Eleven is Joe DePinto, a West Point grad who got the job in 2005 and has spent his tenure slowly tightening the screw on franchisees, demanding business practices that return more profit to corporate HQ at the expense of the independent operators. As the franchisees have felt the sting, they've fought back, suing the company over DePinto's policies.

DePinto has become legendary for his dirty tricks campaign to get rid of his least-favored franchisees, from hiring private eyes to making secret recordings.

Now the franchisees allege that DePinto has started snitching on his own franchisees to ICE, directing government immigration raids against 7-Eleven stores. If these franchise owners are found to have illegally hired undocumented immigrants, DePinto can cancel their franchise agreements and kick them out of the business and take over their stores.

The evidence is circumstantial and 7-Eleven denies it, but ICE's raids on 7-Eleven stores have targeted owners who have made trouble for the company.

When Carter Anderson paused and asked if anyone had questions, Serge Haitayan took a microphone. He owns a 7-Eleven on a highway lined by grape farms in Fresno, Calif. Last year he joined Sandhu in the lawsuit alleging 7-Eleven was wrongly treating them like employees. On July 16 of this year, three federal agents walked into the little store he's operated for 28 years, giving him three days to produce employee records dating back a year. He did that, and he hasn't heard from ICE since.

"Why is immigration targeting 7-Eleven?" Haitayan asked Carter Anderson, drawing a rumbling of support. "Why?"

Carter Anderson paused, smiling nervously, as she scanned the crowd. "I understand getting this question," she said. "But I cannot specifically answer this question."

Haitayan continued. "All I hear is 7-Eleven being raided. It seems to be we are the only ones being targeted by ICE. Why?"

"I'm sorry," she said.

The War Inside 7-Eleven [Lauren Etter/Bloomberg]

(via Super Punch)

(Image: OmiAsad, CC-BY)