This Chipotle Location Just Made History As The First To Unionize

A Chipotle Mexican Grill in Lansing, Michigan has become the company's first location to approve an employee union, per QSR magazine. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more restaurant and service industry workers have shown interest in forming unions to represent their interests.

According to Marketplace, only about 3.4% of restaurant workers in the United States were a part of a union in 2020. Restaurant unions aren't a new idea though. They date back to 1891 when the very first in the country was formed. In the early part of the 20th century, when union rates for all industries were at some of their highest points, a unionized restaurant was a sign of higher quality food and service. 

Union numbers in restaurants have started to tick back up to their former glory recently. The New York Times reports that many smaller restaurants and bars throughout the U.S. have sought to form unions this past year. Major chains like Starbucks and Trader Joe's have seen pushes among employees to form unions as well. They're now joined by the fast-casual chain Chipotle after the Lansing locations' pro-union vote.

Michigan Chipotle organizes with Teamsters United

According to QSR, the Lansing, Michigan Chipotle's employees voted to form a union with Teamsters United in an 11-3 vote. Chipotle's head offices showed no opposition to the decision to form a union. CNBC says that it will now have five days to file any objections to the union, and then the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will certify the results. It will then be up to union representatives and Chipotle to agree to a contract after a period of good faith bargaining. Chipotle has more than 3,000 company-owned locations across the U.S.

This might be the first Chipotle location to approve a union, but it wasn't the first to show interest. In July, the company was accused of union busting after it abruptly shut down an Augusta, Maine location that had shown interest in forming a union. The Wall Street Journal notes that the closure occurred on the same day employees were meant to meet with NLRB officials. Employees had cited frequent short staffing as motivation for forming the union. Chipotle used the same motivation for closing the location permanently.

"Despite Chipotle's efforts to intimidate workers into forgoing organizing efforts, workers in Lansing remained united in their effort to secure a voice on the job, and their victory signifies a pivotal moment for workers at fast casual restaurant chains across the country," said Teamsters United in an official statement.