Chipotle union files union complaint after restaurant closes

A Chipotle Mexican Grill sign is visible in the Park Slope neighborhood of New York’s Brooklyn borough.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

A union seeking to organize Chipotle Mexican Grill workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after the burrito chain said it would permanently close the establishment that sought to unionize.

At the end of June, a Chipotle restaurant in Augusta, Maine, became the chain’s first store to file for union elections, seeking to unite as Chipotle United, which is not affiliated with any larger unions. The petition was launched after employees left the restaurant earlier this month to protest working conditions and staff shortages.

Chipotle said the location has been closed to the public since June 17. Press secretary Lori Shalow denied that the restaurant’s eventual closure was due to a union petition. Instead, she said that the company could not provide enough staff for the location.

“Our operations management has looked at this situation like any other restaurant with these unique staffing issues. Chipotle respects our employees’ rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act,” Shalow said in a statement to CNBC.

But Chipotle United workers eager to organize see the move as a return move and held a rally Tuesday night to protest the store’s closure. Organizer Brandi McNeese told CNBC that the closure will only step up efforts.

“All they do is fuel us,” McNeese said.

McNeese said Chipotle United, which filed the complaint on Tuesday, is mainly concerned about crew safety, food safety and staff shortages.

Jeffrey Neil Young, an attorney representing Chipotle United, told CNBC it was “union busting 101.”

“The closure was aimed not only at Maine workers, but at Chipotle workers across the country who are considering unionizing. Organizing campaigns are currently underway in Michigan, New York, and elsewhere. The store closure is a signal to other Chipotle workers that if they organize, they could be out of a job,” Young said in a written statement. He added that the union had asked the NLRB to seek an injunction to force Chipotle to reopen the store and pay workers wages before the store opens.

Employees at a second Chipotle outlet applied for union elections in early July. Workers at this Lansing, Michigan-based restaurant are seeking to unionize as part of the International Brotherhood of Drivers.

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