Chipotle Workers Claim They Were The Victims Of Discrimination — Here's Why

As fond as you may be of the food at Chipotle, it would appear there's some questionable stuff going on beneath the surface of the Mexican-inspired fast-casual restaurant chain. Indeed, there are secrets Chipotle doesn't want you to know – like that time in 2016 when the company was accused of wage-theft by over 10,000 employees who claimed the chain demanded they clock out early but still finish their shift (via Fortune), or that time in 2020 when the company was held liable for 13,000 child labor violations in Massachusetts. To say that Chipotle has fielded at least its fair share of labor-related controversy since its founding in 1993 would be putting it mildly, and perhaps even more so since Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ (SEIU 32BJ), a labor union, began helping Chipotle workers in their efforts to unionize, per The City

Such efforts appear to go back at least to 2019 — the year that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against Chipotle, and CNBC reported that the union was involved in that case. That being said, the NLRB database contains a long list of labor complaints filed against Chipotle since 2014, so it's unclear exactly how long the union has been involved. Nevertheless, with the union now openly involved, such complaints have taken on a new tenor. To wit, Chipotle was recently accused of both discrimination and retaliatory practices arising out of employee efforts to become unionized.

Employees have the legal right to organize

In addition to its unionization efforts at Chipotle, SEIU 32BJ has also been helping Chipotle employees to organize less officially, in the form of strikes, rallies, and other forms of peaceful protest. In fact, this past week, several dozen Chipotle employees across New York City have been striking in support of higher wages and more humane scheduling practices, including more consistent working hours. The strike was capped off with a rally in Midtown Manhattan on the afternoon of Thursday, May 26, with several state and local politicians on hand to lend their support. This culminated, as such things often do, in the arrest of 11 people — in this case, Bloomberg reports, for blocking an intersection. 

Although the higher-ups at Chipotle might see this as somewhat of a victory, the fact remains that the chain has recently had to contend with two separate union complaints with the NLRB, both of which involve alleged discrimination or threats thereof against union-minded employees. According to The City, the first was filed on behalf of an employee who was allegedly fired in mid-April in retaliation for her "concerted union activity," which appears to have included taking an interview with The New York Times in which she spoke of allegedly challenging working conditions. This one appears to have been settled, and the employee is now back at work, per QNS. The other complaint was filed by the union on April 28, "alleging anti-union intimidation tactics and creating an atmosphere of surveillance."