Chipotle Workers in Michigan Vote to Form Fastfood Chain’s First Union

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Source: Common Dreams

Labor advocates hailed employees at a Chipotle in Michigan who voted to unionize, becoming the first of the company’s 3,000 locations to do so and adding momentum to a nationwide wave of worker organizing.

“With this historic victory, the grassroots trade union movement continues to spread like wildfire.”

“Today’s victory is an amazing moment for our team that has worked so hard and spent many months organizing,” Samantha Smith, an 18-year-old crew member at the West Saginaw Highway Chipotle in Lansing, said in a statement following employees’ 11-3 vote to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 243.

“We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively,” she added. “What this vote shows is that workers are going to keep taking the fight to big corporations like Chipotle and demand the working conditions we deserve.”

Harper McNamara, 19, who also works at the West Saginaw Highway Chipotle, said that “we could not be more proud to be the first Chipotle restaurant in the United States to organize.”

“Forming a union will allow us to have a true voice on the job and force Chipotle to address our concerns,” she asserted. “I am so proud of all those who were involved in this effort, and showed the courage needed to take on a huge corporation.”

Teamsters Local 243 president Scott Quenneville noted that “Chipotle pulled in revenue of $7.5 billion last year, and just as we’re seeing workers of all ages and backgrounds across the country take on these corporate giants, it’s so inspiring to see Chipotle workers stand up and demand more from a company that can clearly afford it.”

“The Teamsters have these workers’ backs,” he added. “They’re going to have a union they can be proud of, that knows how to get things done.”

While the Michigan Chipotle was the first to successfully unionize, it was not the first to try. As workers at a Chiptole in Augusta, Maine moved to form a union earlier this year, the company permanently closed that location, drawing accusations of union-busting and a call by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate.

According to the Lansing State Journal, workers at 13 other U.S. Chipotle locations have moved to join unions.

Labor and progressive groups and leaders applauded the Lansing Chiptole workers’ vote, with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeting that “with this historic victory, the grassroots trade union movement continues to spread like wildfire.”

Thursday’s vote in Lansing came amid a surge in labor organizing across the United States. Workers at more than 200 U.S. Starbucks locations, as well as employees of companies including Amazon, Amy’s, Apple, Hello Fresh, and Trader Joe’s have moved to unionize. Workers attempting to form or join unions at some of these and other companies accuse corporate management of engaging in union-busting activities.

On Thursday, workers at an REI in Berkeley, California voted 56-38 to join United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, becoming just the second location of the outdoor recreation consumers’ cooperative to unionize.

Responding to a Bloomberg Law report noting that unions prevailed in 639 NLRB elections in the first six months of 2022, AFL-CIO strategic communications adviser Steve Smith tweeted Wednesday that “the story here is the union organizing wave is broad and it’s strengthening by the day. And we’re just getting started.”

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