The First Chipotle That Tried To Unionize Was Just Dealt A Major Blow

Unionization efforts are spreading across large fast-food chains around the country. For example, after decades, Starbucks workers in the United States began to unionize, and baristas recently got some major support with their union efforts from Workers United. While there have been many successful unionization stories for some food service workers, some fast food employees have had setbacks.

Chipotle workers joined the unionization movement when the first store to file for a union was in Augusta, Maine, but unfortunately for workers, the store just shut down. According to Nation's Restaurant News, this store filed a petition to unionize on July 11, but the location was closed Tuesday morning before a federal hearing regarding the union. Maine Public reports that Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's chief corporate officer, said that the store was closed because it was understaffed, and two recruiting experts had been hired in an attempt to solve the issue. But Brandi McNease, who worked at the Augusta restaurant and is organizing with Chipotle United, said that the company was union-busting and intimidating employees.

Are Chipotle workers at other stores trying to unionize?

Although the Chipotle location in Augusta, Maine was the first store throughout the chain to push for a union, Chipotle workers in other states have also been fighting for union recognition. According to Michigan Advance, a Chipotle store in Lansing is the first in the state to file for a union, and follows multiple Starbucks stores across the state that have voted for a union. The 32BJ SEIU is helping Chipotle workers in New York with their efforts to create a union, and Bloomberg reported that a 200-person strike took place last May in Manhattan in support of better working conditions for Chipotle staff. Despite this, the store closure in Augusta is still a loss for employees and union supporters.

When the Augusta Chipotle first filed a petition for a union, Reuters explained that, "The move could be significant if it spreads to more Chipotle stores, as has happened at corporate-owned U.S. Starbucks Corp locations, or even other large restaurant chains." Unionization across Chipotle stores hasn't picked up the same steam as it has across Starbucks locations yet, and this one store closure isn't great for morale. But Chipotle employees are still fighting for better wages and more, and we'll have to see if other stores have more success in forming unions.