So far, only one Chipotle unit has voted to unionize. /Photo: Shutterstock.
The drive to unionize Chipotle Mexican Grill is gaining momentum again.
A crew member working at a location in Lawrence, Kan., filed an unfair labor practice report with the National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 25, accusing Chipotle management of questioning workers and trying to force them not to sign a petition calling for a union. vote.
The allegations against Chipotle crew member Quinlan Muller of Kansas are the latest complaints filed with the NLRB this year. There are currently 14 open cases involving Chipotle before the Labor Relations Board in 2022, with most involving allegations of attempts to thwart union activity.
Nine of those cases were filed by union organizers in and around New York, where the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was trying to organize. But other allegations of unfair labor practices involve a unionization movement in Augusta, Maine, where workers petitioned the NLRB to hold elections in July. This unit was later permanently closed due to staffing problems.
In Kansas, Muller, a crew member, told Restaurant Business that she sent out a petition for a union vote and collected about 15 signatures, about 75% of what was needed. She left the petition at work with a colleague, but later discovered that the petition had been discarded.
The manager confirmed to Muller that he had been ejected, but did not say how. The manager also told her that she could not require signatures at work.
Around the same time, a field manager visited the store and spoke with employees, Muller said.
“He asked if I knew what the consequences of unionizing would be,” Muller said. “And he told me and other colleagues things like you’re going to lose your benefits that Chipotle offers. You will no longer receive tips. You won’t be able to get tuition reimbursement and managers won’t be able to help you on shift if you need it and things like that.
“That really put some people off,” Muller said. “He even mentioned union dues and that they were going to deduct a portion of our pay each month.”
Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s director of corporate affairs, did not respond to specific questions about the incident, but said in a statement: “We respect the rights of our employees under the National Labor Relations Act and are committed to providing fair, just and humane work. an environment that provides opportunities for all. We encourage our employees to contact us immediately, including through the anonymous 800 number, with any concerns so that we can investigate and respond quickly to make things right.”
Muller, upset that the petition was thrown out, said she started researching whether any Chipotle stores had unions and found that the first to organize was in Lansing, Michigan, earlier this year. Muller turned to the Emergency Worker Organizing Committee, or EWOC, a local organizing program supported by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, or UE, and the Democratic Socialists of America. EWOC worked with organizers in Lansing and helped connect Muller with the local Kansas chapter of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Chipotle in Michigan is partnering with Teamsters local 243.
As of last week, Muller said she had collected signatures on a second petition for a union vote, but not on the job.
For her, the underlying issue is “the need for legal protection that unions offer to service workers, especially those in a large corporation.”
Muller said she has been working for Chipotle at various locations for about four years while attending college to earn a degree in clinical laboratory science.
She described the first Chipotle unit she worked in and also operated. The workers were well trained. There was adequate staffing and the schedule was even and fair between morning, night and weekend shifts, she said.
Then she moved to another location closer to campus and found that staff was lacking and people were not trained enough.
“The job became much more difficult and the company was doing nothing to help us,” she said. “The Chipotle I’m at right now is kind of a joke that it’s the worst Chipotle in town.
According to her, co-workers began to leave, and this worsened the working conditions. Even as Chipotle increased benefits and pay, Muller said workers found those benefits weren’t equally available.
After Chipotle raised the minimum wage to $13 an hour, another worker was transferred from a unit that paid less. Muller said the crew asked their field manager several times to at least raise the team member’s salary to match what everyone else was making.
“Our field leader said it’s not in his power,” she said. “So negotiating and negotiating and asking for things from Chipotle without a union doesn’t guarantee us anything at all.”
Schalow reiterated Chipotle’s benefits, which include competitive wages, debt-free degrees and tuition reimbursement up to $5,250 per year, health benefits and quarterly bonuses.
Muller herself is a recipient of Chipotle’s tuition assistance, she said.
“It’s an enticing job for high school and college students,” she said. “But if you want to target those demographics, Chipotle basically shouldn’t be using them.” That’s a pretty vulnerable demographic.”
Muller said the growing interest in unions at companies like Amazon and Starbucks indicates a larger movement of workers fighting mistreatment and seeking more control over their lives.
“I really think Chipotle will be next,” she said.
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