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NYC Chipotle Workers' Efforts to Unionize on Hold

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022   

It has been about three years since workers at Chipotle restaurants in New York City started their effort to unionize, and it hasn't happened yet.

Lawsuits were filed by the city against the restaurant chain in 2019 and in 2021, alleging violations of New York's Fair Workweek Law in creating more predictable work schedules.

The company was fined more than $150 million.

Jeremy Espinal, labor organizer for 32BJ SEIU, said the efforts to unionize continue to be hampered by misinformation.

"We've seen workers where we reach out to them, and they have a very negative experience with us; where they try to run away, or they'll yell at us that they're not interested in talking to us," Espinal noted. "And a lot of that comes from fear of not knowing. They don't know who we are, they don't know what we're trying to talk to them about, or they've been scared by the company already."

Espinal, who used to work at Chipotle, said other recent, successful efforts to organize at chains like Starbucks have revived the conversation about the potential benefits of being part of a union. But he acknowledged it is tough when a company pushes back, not only locally, but nationally.

The formal vote on establishing a union may have stalled, but Espinal emphasized he knows what needs to take place in order to move forward.

"Workers coming together, workers showing their strength to the company, workers showing their value to the company," Espinal stressed. "I think definitely, it has to come from the workers, because obviously, a union is made up of workers, and it's as strong as the workers as a whole."

New York is one of a handful of cities with so-called "predictive scheduling" laws, allowing workers to plan their schedules and have some idea of what they will be paid. A few states have passed laws restricting them.

Disclosure: 32BJ SEIU contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Immigrant Issues, and Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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