Workers at a Chipotle in Augusta, Maine, filed to form a union on Wednesday, hoping to become the first unionized workers at the food chain’s nearly 3,000 locations in the country.
The workers, who have formed an independent unionWorkers United, also known as Workers United, submitted their union petition with signed union cards. a majority ofUnion organizers claim that there were around 20 employees in the store.
Workers claim that they work long hours and are understaffed, which can lead to safety concerns. The union staged an a two-day walkoutLast week, protestors marched against unsafe working conditions after being forced to open the shop without proper staffing. Customers were at risk.
When the store is understaffed — often with half of the amount of people that are required to meet demand — workers say that they’re unable to do things like food temperature checks or cleaning tables in the restaurant.
“I care about these people more than anybody else,” employee Laramie Rohr told the Kennebec Journal. “I hope to improve working conditions, not have to have five people working 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a week, to have the ability to close when you need to for safety reasons. Because we don’t want to serve bad food. We’re proud of our food, we’re proud of our workplace, we’re proud of our coworkers.”
Chipotle management says the fact that they responded with hiring initiatives after the walkout shows that the company is already capable of meeting employees’ concerns, but workers say that upper management has a pattern of not addressing workers’ needs, according to the Kennebec Journal.
On Wednesday, workers sent a letter to management informing them of their intention to unionize. “We’re hoping that by forming this union we can work with Chipotle to achieve the goals we have in common, such as safe and healthy food, and good atmosphere, and safe and happy crew members, and all of the other things that make Chipotle different,” workers said in a statement.
“We are here to make things better by ensuring we have the tools and the support to meet Chipotle’s high standards while caring for ourselves, the crew that will come after us, and other food service workers who may see our efforts and feel empowered to stand up against the industry’s toxic culture,” they said.
Chipotle United’s independent nature echoes the union campaign waged under the independent Amazon Labor Union. Chipotle workers sought assistance from established unionsThey are creating a union independent of Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Maine American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations(AFL-CIO).
New York City Chipotle workers have been organizing a union effort. haven’tNot yet filed a union petition. New York workers, organizing with SEIU Local 32 BJBrenda Garcia, a union leader and organizer, filed a labor dispute against the company in January. The union also filed a complaint claiming that the company has been intimidating and monitoring employees in relation to the union.
If Chipotle workers successfully unionize, their victory could spark a wave of unionizations in stores across the country — much like Starbucks workers, who have unionized over160 locations in the past eight months.