Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Chipotle Closes First Unionized Store, but Organization Momentum Continues

Last month, workers at an Augusta, Maine Chipotle store formed the first ever Chipotle union in the United States. On Tuesday, the company closed the store and laid-off all of the workers.

James Dennis Hoff

July 20, 2022
Facebook Twitter Share
A Chipotle restaurant, inside a customer orders food.
Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Last month, workers were celebrating the first ever successful union drive at a Chipotle restaurant in the country, but just a little less than four weeks later the company has responded by closing the store and firing all of the employees. 

This clear act of retaliation is yet another example of the dirty tactics that companies like Chipotle, Starbucks, and Amazon are using to try to defeat the growing wave of unionization efforts spreading throughout the country. But organizers say they are not giving up, and already a second Chipotle location, this one in Lansing Michigan, has filed to form a union.

As one of the organizers, Brandi McNease, put it

Since we announced our intent to unionize, they’ve tried to bully, harass and intimidate our crew to prevent them from exercising their right to have a collective voice on the job. But we remain united, our solidarity is strong, and we won’t bend. We are sticking together, and our customers have our backs. We are fighting this decision and we are building a movement to transform the fast-food industry and ensure the workers who create all the wealth for these corporations are respected and no longer have to struggle to support their families.

The news came on Tuesday when workers received a letter from the company announcing the permanent closure of the Augusta, Maine location, which had already been temporarily shuttered due to staffing issues since just before the union was formally declared on June 22. 

The company claims that it could not find enough workers or managers to run the store, but the union says that Chipotle had regularly forced workers to open the store even when they did not have enough employees to safely do so. In fact workers had held a walkout to protest the problem of short staffing just days before the union was formed. Clearly the problem is not a lack of willing workers, but a lack of workers willing to work under terrible conditions for little pay. 

While Chipotle claims they tried to do everything they could to address the staffing problem, it is obvious that the store was closed not because they could not find sufficient staff, but because they wanted to destroy the fledgling union and to discourage any further unionization efforts across the company as larger unions such as Service Employees International Union (SEIU32BJ) look to organize the company. 

In response to the store closing, the workers called an emergency demonstration on Tuesday evening to rally support for the union within the community and to protest the company’s union busting tactics.

This store closing is just the latest in a wave of retaliations against new unions. At the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, several union organizers were fired shortly after their successful unionization vote in April, and dozens of Starbucks workers have been fired for their organizing efforts, including one union activist at the newly organized Starbucks store in Astoria, Queens. 

It is unclear where the fledgling union will go from here and whether or not they will be able to build the support they need to grow Chipotle United, but one thing is clear: Chipotle employees, like all working people, need and deserve a union, and workers everywhere should support their efforts to build one. 

Facebook Twitter Share

James Dennis Hoff

James Dennis Hoff is a writer, educator, labor activist, and member of the Left Voice editorial board. He teaches at The City University of New York.

Labor Movement

Three tables full of food, with signs hung above them. One says "The People's Pantry: FREE FOOD." Banners hung from the tables say "Free CUNY" and "Cop Free School Zone"

CUNY Administration Cracks Down on Student and Worker-Run Food Pantry

Students and workers opened "The People's Pantry" seven weeks ago as part of a broader anti-austerity campaign at CUNY, leading to several direct confrontations with the administration.

Olivia Wood

March 19, 2023

Temple’s Grad Worker Strike Ends with Important Victories 

The last report on the strike from a union teacher at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Jason Koslowski

March 17, 2023

Teachers and Education Workers Set to Strike! Tens of Thousands Rally in Los Angeles 

A three day strike was announced by two education unions at a rally attended by tens of thousands of members. The workers are calling for increased wages, reduced class size, and an end to harassment by their employers.

Julia Wallace

March 17, 2023
A sign drawn on a small whiteboard, in trans pride colors. Text: "CUNY Graduate Center and Professional Schools Workers for Trans Rights" Beneath the text is a chain of 9 smiling stick figures in different colors, all holding hands

CUNY Union Chapter Unanimously Passes Resolution in Support of Trans Rights

The Graduate Center chapter of PSC-CUNY, the faculty, staff, and graduate worker union of the City University of New York, passed a resolution pledging support to all workers fighting the anti-trans bills nationwide.

Olivia Wood

March 12, 2023


“We Deserve a Living Wage:” on the Limits of the New Temple Grad Worker Contract 

A graduate worker at Temple reflects on the limits and strengths of the new contract won in the recent strike.

Femicide: The Face of a Patriarchal Capitalist Society

On March 8, the feminist movement flooded the streets of Mexico as part of a global day of mobilization. Among these thousands of women and dissidents, the main demand was an end to femicide and sexist violence.

Yara Villaseñor

March 31, 2023

Biden’s Proposed Budget Nothing but Empty Promises 

Earlier this month, Joe Biden announced his budget proposal, with a lot of promises. But the only thing we know he’ll deliver is that “nothing will fundamentally change.”

Molly Rosenzweig

March 31, 2023

At Least 39 Migrants Die in Fire at Detention Center in Mexico. The State Is Responsible.

The events of March 27 marked one of the darkest chapters in the Mexican State’s anti-immigrant policy, a policy that is increasingly subordinated to the interests of U.S. imperialism.