Chipotle Abruptly Shutters a Restaurant For This Controversial Reason
Trouble has long been brewing at Starbucks due to ongoing conflict between unionizing employees and management. Now, it seems Chipotle may be attempting to fend off similar fledgling unionization efforts.
The Tex-Mex fast casual has abruptly closed a restaurant in Augusta, Maine, citing staffing issues as the main cause. However, the store is the first Chipotle location where workers have organized to form a union. Just last month, the employees filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking to hold a union vote.
On July 19, the very same day the NLRB was to hold hearings about the union election, the company announced it was permanently closing the Chipotle in question.
The move has been seen by pro-union staff members as an obvious attempt to stop Chipotle workers from unionizing before the movement spreads to other stores. Brandi McNease, an employee that was part of the efforts at the Maine store, said in a statement that the move was "union busting 101."
"They're scared because they know how powerful we are and if we catch fire like the unionization effort at Starbucks they won't be able to stop us," McNease said.
Chipotle issued a counter statement saying that the closure was due to staffing issues and was not related to the union activity at the store. According to the company, the restaurant had been closed to the public since June 17 due to an inability to find managers and its current staff taking "excessive" time off, which made it impossible to efficiently operate the store, according to The Washington Post.
"Chipotle respects our employees' rights to organize," said Laurie Schalow, Chipotle's chief corporate affairs officer.
While it's true that union advocates voiced complaints about the store's lack of staff, the crew also had concerns about other issues, including unsafe working conditions, the Kennebec Journal reported earlier this month.
However, in order to alleviate tensions, the Tex-Mex chain said it was providing the 20 employees of the shuttered location with severance pay and assistance with finding new jobs.
The Maine Chipotle isn't the only one attempting to unionize, however. A location in Michigan is currently attempting to join the United Brotherhood of Teamsters, which means Chipotle may have a similar situation on its hands as the one currently playing out at Starbucks.
The coffee chain giant has been flooded with union-busting accusations amid news of recent closures across the country. It was criticized for hindering a union effort at a store it shuttered last month in Ithaca, N.Y. Additionally, the coffee giant abruptly closed 16 urban locations where it said "crime had gotten out of control." Six of those cafes were in its hometown of Seattle, where protests questioning the motives behind the closures have broken out.
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