– Chipotle’s alleged unlawful actions included its managers threatening workers, interrogating some and trying to bribe them to reveal, cease organizing efforts –
New York, NY – Chipotle Mexican Grill, the California-based fast-casual food company, has run afoul of the National Labor Relations Board for a pattern of coercive action that a regional office of the Federal agency says violates workers’ legal rights to organize themselves into a union.
The complaint, based on information to the attention of the agency by 32BJ SEIU, which has been helping fast food workers organize themselves into the union, accuses supervisors at Chipotle, the self-proclaimed “food with integrity” company, of engaging in abusive behavior against in an effort to stop their organizing efforts.
“On or about the first week of May 2019,” the complaint reads, a Chipotle supervisor “interrogated employees concerning their Union and/or protected concerted activity;
“in the front area of the Respondent’s 464 Park Avenue South restaurant, threatened employees with discharge if they engaged in Union and/or protected concerted activity;
“in the front area of the Respondent’s 464 Park Avenue South restaurant, impliedly threatened employees with physical violence if they engaged in Union and/or protected concerted activity;
“and, in the kitchen area of the Respondent’s 464 Park Avenue South restaurant, promised a promotion to employees in exchange for revealing their Union and/or protected concerted activities.”
At another restaurant at 117 East 14 Street, another supervisor on May 21, 2019 “threatened employees with more onerous work assignments if they engaged in Union and/or protected concerted activity.
Another supervisor at the same restaurant a week later, on June 1, 2019, “told employees that Union and/or protected concerted activity is incompatible with working for the Respondent.”
But, perhaps the most shocking abuse was what happened to a female worker who had complained about her pay, hours and working conditions, “demanding, among things, improvement in Respondent’s scheduling practices.”
For that impertinence, Chipotle fired the woman.
The NLRB alleges that Chipotle did these things, including firing the woman, because she “assisted the Union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees from engaging in these activities.”
Jeremy Espinal, 20, said he worked at the 117 East 14th Street Chipotle location from April 2018 until May 2019 when he left. He works at a different Chipotle now.
“I was forced out because of my organizing,” Espinal said. “Threats like that became routine. Chipotle managers threatened us all the time but I am happy that someone is now taking action because they shouldn’t get away with stuff like. Their threats didn’t stop us though because we kept organizing and we’ve been organizing ever since.”
32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said “Chipotle’s patterns of illegal behavior in New York City is disappointing but will not deter workers from achieving their aim of joining the union.”
“Fast food workers, including those who work at Chipotle, have a right to organize a union,” Bragg said. “And they are going to get their union.”
The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection earlier in the fall took action against Chipotle for violating the city’s landmark worker protection Fair Workweek Law. The agency demanded more than $1 million for violations at five Brooklyn Chipotle restaurants in 2018. Workers have since filed dozens more complaints about the company’s violation of the law at its restaurants across the city.
The Fair Work Week Law contains provisions to help stabilize fast food workers’ volatile schedules and create a path to full-time hours by requiring that employers systematically offer existing employees open shifts before hiring new staff. Workers say Chipotle rarely does this and, in fact, often cut the hours of existing employees to offer them to new hires.
Fast food employers are required to give workers written estimates of their regular weekly schedule so that workers can reasonably anticipate a stable workweek. Chipotle does not do this, workers have complained to the city. Fast Food employers are also required under the law to pay scheduling premiums to workers whenever the company sends them home early, asks them to work late past the scheduled end of their shift, or ask them to open the restaurant the night after they work a closing shift.
Chipotle often does not pay them for these kinds of schedule changes and, in some cases, has intimidated workers into signing a form saying they requested the schedule change or, if they won’t sign, forged their signature in an attempt to reduce their liability.
The City DCWP’s investigation of these violations is continuing.
The NLRB is demanding that Chipotle, among other things, compensate the fired worker for job search expenses as well as back pay compensation that she has lost.
With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country
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