In Lansing, Michigan, history was made as the first Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant voted in favor of unionizing. The workers voted 11-to-3, choosing to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. In response to this win for workers rights, Chipotle spokesperson Laurie Schalow stated to CNBC, “We’re disappointed that the employees at our Lansing, MI restaurant chose to have a third party speak on their behalf because we continue to believe that working directly together is best for our employees.”
Chipotle is allowed five business days to file objections to the election – at the time of this writing the company has not indicated its intentions to do so. If the company opts out of filing then the results of the vote will be certified by the National Labor Relations Board regional director and the company is required to begin bargaining in good faith with the union. “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,” Scott Quenneville, president of Local 243, said in a statement. “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.”
The Lansing location is the second in the restaurant chain to file a petition with the NLRB to unionize. Back in June, a Chipotle restaurant located in Augusta, Maine, became the chain’s first location to file for a union election with the hopes to organize under Chipotle United, which is unaffiliated with larger unions. In response, the company permanently closed the location just after the petition was filed, with excuses of staffing problems. Chipotle United has since filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming that the move was retaliatory.
This win for Chipotle organizers in our state follows the inspiring 200 Starbucks cafes across the country who have voted to unionize over the last 10 months. Despite the many efforts of organizers around the nation, however, unions are still a rarity in the restaurant industry. In the last year alone, only 1.2 percent of workers in food and drinking establishments were members of a union, which sits far below the private-sector unionization rate of 6.1 percent. Eyes are now on chains located in East Lansing and Okemos, and what their futures might soon hold. Meanwhile Local 243, whose union halls are in Lansing and Plymouth Township, continues looking out for its current 4000 members across the state.