Chipotle workers in Maine move to unionize, a first for the chain

Chipotle owns its own restaurants, which could make it easier for employees to unionize

Workers at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Augusta, Maine, are the latest employees interested in unionizing.

The group has petitioned a federal labor board for a union election, becoming the first U.S. Chipotle location to do so.

chipolte

 Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurant.  (iStock)

Union organizing in a variety of fields has gained momentum recently after decades of decline in U.S. union membership. 

The Chipotle employees filed their petition on Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board, Maine AFL-CIO spokesman Andy O'Brien said.

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The workers group is called Chipotle United.

Organizers have worked to establish unions at companies including Amazon, Starbucks, outdoors retailer REI and Google parent company Alphabet.

Starbucks has seen 280 stores work to organize since August 2021.

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Logo of Chipotle Mexican Grill, an American chain of fast casual restaurants, is seen on a smartphone screen. (Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Chipotle also owns its own stores, which could make unionization easier.

Because Chipotle owns its locations, "workers there can join together across stores and state borders to build power and force the company to negotiate with them," O'Brien said.

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Last week, the Maine Chipotle workers walked out over what they said were unsafe conditions.

In a statement, the workers said the company immediately sent more staff, retrained existing employees and provided "new leadership" at the restaurant.

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"We respect our employees' rights under the National Labor Relations Act and are committed to ensuring a fair, just, and humane work environment that provides opportunities for all," said Chipotle Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Laurie Schalow in a statement.

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The company did not immediately comment on whether it would challenge the election petition.

Reuters contributed to this report.