Chipotle closes store where workers filed to form company’s first union

Chipotle permanently closed a Maine store on Tuesday after workers voted to form the first union at one of the company’s restaurants last month.

The international fast-casual food chain told The Hill it closed the store in Augusta because of low staffing. It sent a letter to employees on Tuesday confirming the permanent closure of the location while offering severance pay and assistance in finding another job.

Workers at the restaurant are planning to protest outside the store at 5 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Chipotle United, the independent union formed to represent the store’s employees, called the move to shut the location down “playing dirty.”

“We’re fighting back!” the union tweeted. “Join us at 5pm to protest the closure of our store and tell them that union busting is bad business!”

Laurie Schalow, the chief corporate affairs officer at Chipotle, said the Augusta location has been closed to the public since June 17.

She said the chain hired two recruitment experts to try to fill vacancies but were unable to resolve the staffing issue.

“We have been unable to adequately staff this remote restaurant with crew and continue to be plagued with excessive call-outs and lack of availability from existing staff,” Schalow said. “We have had an even more difficult time finding managers to lead the restaurant.”

The Augusta store unionized on June 23, the first successful effort in the company, which has been accused of stamping out prior unionization efforts.

Chipotle is among a number of major chains that have seen their first successful unionization efforts during the pandemic.

Over the spring, Amazon employees organized the company’s first union in Staten Island, N.Y., while an Apple store near Baltimore, Md., became the first store in the tech company to unionize last month.

The Augusta unionization effort was reportedly sparked by the success of employees who work for Starbucks, which has seen more than 50 locations unionize since December.

Maine’s AFL-CIO union, which helped advise Chipotle United on its unionization effort, tweeted on Tuesday for residents in Augusta to join employees protesting the store closure.

“Chipotle can try to bully, harass & intimidate workers, but they can’t stop a movement!” the organization wrote.

Tags Augusta Chipotle Maine unionization

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