Advance Notice: Briefs

Lansing-area Chipotle becomes chain’s first location to unionize in the U.S.

By: - August 26, 2022 6:26 am

Chipotle in Ann Arbor | Laina G. Stebbins

The Chipotle restaurant in Delta Township, near Lansing, has become the chain’s first location across the country to unionize.

By a vote of 11-3, workers at the store on Thursday approved joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. If Chipotle doesn’t file an objection within five business days, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director can then certify the results, requiring the company to begin bargaining with the union for a contract.

Scott Quenneville, president of Local 243, hailed the vote in a statement on the union’s website.

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

Samantha Smith, 18, a Chipotle crew member who has worked at the Lansing-area restaurant for more than two years, said the vote was an “amazing” moment for her and her co-workers who helped to organize the successful drive.

“We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively,” said Smith.  “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.”

The workers filed for the election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 5. 

While the corporate-owned restaurant did not object to the filing, Chipotle spokesperson Laurie Schalow said in a statement to CNBC that it was“disappointed” in the results. 

“We continue to believe that working directly together is best for our employees,” she said.

Although the Delta Township location was the first to vote to unionize, it was actually the second to file a petition with the NLRB.

In June, the Chipotle restaurant in Augusta, Maine, became the chain’s first of its approximately 3,000 outlets to file for a union election. However, the company closed the location several weeks later, citing staffing problems. 

Chipotle United, the organization that sought to coordinate the union drive, has since filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming the closing was retaliatory.

Another complaint, filed in December 2019 by the NLRB itself, alleges a manager at the Chipotle location in Manhattan threatened to fire employees for trying to organize there, including threatening physical violence if they engaged in union activities. That case remains open.

In May, a Starbucks in Grand Rapids became that chain’s first Michigan store to vote to unionize. Four more in Ann Arbor voted in June to form unions, followed by more pro-union votes from stores including those in Flint, East Lansing, Lansing and Clinton Township.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.